J&K panchayat polls begin | india | Hindustan Times
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J&K panchayat polls begin

india Updated: Apr 13, 2011 11:09 IST

PTI
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Ignoring the separatists' call for boycott, residents of Qoimoh, a block in south Kashmir, on Wednesday turned out in numbers to cast votes in the first phase of panchayat elections, which are being held in Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of 10 years.

Men and women turned up in dozens at polling stations earlier than the scheduled 8.00am start.

Polling is being held in eight blocks including Bishnah, Samba and Udhampur in Jammu district and Kangan, Budgam, Qoimoh and Kupwara in Kashmir region.

Similar reports of enthusiastic turn out have been reported from other areas of the Valley going to polls on Wednesday including Budgam and Ganderbal areas.

More than 2,800 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of the panchayat elections.

"I came early so that I can get back to my fields afterwards as we have to prepare for the sowing season as well," Ghulam Mohiuddin Mir told PTI outside a polling station.

Asked about the separatist call for boycott of the elections, he said these polls were for grass root level governance.

"We will not need to run after the MLA and ministers as sarpanch and panchs will be available to us here," Mir added.

He said in any case, elections have been held one way or the other since 1996 and it was better to participate.

The last panchayat elections, held after a gap of 23 years, were conducted in the state in 2001-02 and the next edition was due in 2006 but could not be held due to various reasons, especially the fragile security situation.

The second phase of polling will be held on April 17, third phase on April 21, fourth phase on April 25, fifth phase on April 30, sixth phase on May 4, seventh on May 8, eighth on May 12, ninth on May 16 and the 10th to 16th phases will be held on May 21, May 25, May 29, June 2, June 6, June 11 and June 18 respectively.

The counting of votes shall be taken up immediately after the polling process is over and the results shall be announced immediately thereafter, officials said.

Authorities had made necessary security arrangements to foil any attempt by militants to disrupt the elections, they said.

Director general of police Kuldeep Khoda had reviewed overall security arrangements in the Valley in the run up to the elections and called for close synergy between various law enforcing agencies to ensure free and fair polls.

Emphasising the need for creating a congenial atmosphere for maximum participation of voters in the democratic exercise at the grassroots level, he asked the field officers to strengthen deployment of manpower on the ground.

The hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference had asked voters to boycott the panchayat elections.