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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Villagers defy boycott call, 26% turnout in Srinagar

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, April 30, 2014
First Published: 13:11 IST(30/4/2014) | Last Updated: 17:44 IST(30/4/2014)

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is witnessing a phenomenon that has become a hallmark of elections in this seat: parts of it, predominantly its urban areas, boycott polls because of a strong anti-India sentiment, while parts of it vote for a myriad of reasons.

Although most polling stations in the capital did not witness long queues like those in the semi-urban areas of the constituency like Budgam and Ganderbal, a few booths are getting voters in small groups.

However, in old Srinagar and some civil lines areas, where the separatist sentiment is the strongest, a majority of the polling booths have recorded either no voting at all or just one or two votes after three hours of polling that started at 7am.

The official estimates support the ground reports. The turnout for the entire constituency, where over 11 lakh voters are registered, was 26% at 3pm.

Although a double-digit turnout was recorded in Hazratbal, Zadibal, Khanyar and Eidgah areas of the city, only a voter or two had visited many polling booths in Gojwara, Nowhatta, Safakadal.

"There are three polling booths in Islamia School. Till 10:30am, only three votes were cast. Around 2,000 people are registered here," said a polling official, who wished not to be named.

The officials said they had been discharging their duties in an atmosphere of fear and threat of "attacks by civilians".

"The polling station was pelted with stones last night. We had to be shifted to the nearby police station for some time," the official said.

Stone pelting has been reported from some civil lines areas like Batamaloo as well.

Poll officials stationed at Safakadal, an area in the old city, said five polling booths located in the school are intermittently being attacked with stones.

A few kilometers away, voters were coming out after casting votes at a polling station in Greenland School.

"We don't support election boycott. Wasting vote is a sin," said a voter, who did not wish to be named.
The same sentiment was shared by a group of women in Nowpora polling station.

"If we get benefits, there is no reason why shouldn't we vote," said a woman, who had come to vote along with her daughter-in-law.

Hinna (name changed), who had travelled all the way from Mumbai to cast her vote, said, "Even if we want that ourselves to be heard on human rights, sufferings and draconian laws like ASFPA , we need the right people to represent us."

On the other extreme, those who are boycotting, voting amounts to "justifying Indian rule in Kashmir".

For those who did not heed to boycott calls, voting was a way of showing gratitude to the incumbent MP for good work in the constituency, a means to change the NC-Cong coalition that "has failed them" or simply a right that has to be exercised.

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