With Srinagar having always been the nerve center of the separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir, the voter turnout in the eight seats of the city and its surroundings, which went to the polls on Wednesday, was expected to be low. But it was not as low as had been feared.
Amirakadal, which recorded the lowest voting among all the state’s 87 constituencies in the 2002 assembly elections — a mere 3.06 per cent — polled a comparatively better 13.05 per cent this time. Hazratbal, which saw only 7.12 per cent voting in the last election, recorded a respectable 26.5 per cent.
“Overall the voting was around 20 per cent in the eight seats,” said state chief electoral officer, B.R. Sharma. “In 2002, in comparison, the figure had been 5.06 per cent.”
The remaining 13 seats — 11 in Jammu and two in Samba — where voting was held followed the pattern set in earlier phases with fairly high polling between 55 and 60 per cent.
Quite predictably in Srinagar there were street protests against the holding of polls in many areas, sporadic clashes between protesters and police, which led to more than a dozen people, including two policemen, being injured. Curfew was clamped in localities like Zainadar Mohalla, Tankipora and Chhota Bazar.
While the city outskirts saw polling start as soon as the booths opened, the downtown areas had hardly any votes cast until mid-afternoon, when the tempo slowly picked up.
Eight people, including three polling agents were taken into custody while allegedly trying to capture a booth in Amirakaddal constituency. Supporters of National Conference and the Congress clashed at Hazratbal, forcing police to fire in the air to make them disperse. There was also one instance of attempted bogus voting!
A number of the seats that were contested in Jammu on Wednesday were also those where the agitation relating to the land transfer to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board earlier in the year had been the most intense. Both the seats from which National Conference supreme Farooq Abdullah is contesting, Sonawar and Hazratbal, went to the polls on Wednesday.
(With inputs from Tarun Upadhyaya and Vikram Sharma in Jammu)