There are two stories unfolding in the prestigious Srinagar constituency -- there is a Srinagar which is voting and there is another Srinagar where boycott is the call for the day.
Although most polling stations in the state’s summer capital Srinagar did not witness long queues like those in the semi-urban parts of constituency like Budgam and Ganderbal, but many booths are getting voters in small groups of twos and threes.
There however is another part of Srinagar, mostly the old city and some civil lines areas--where some polling booths had registered ‘nil’ or just one or two votes even after three hours of polling was over.
The Srinagar constituency where NC patron Farooq Abdullah is seeking re-election had started voting at 7 am.
The official estimates support the ground reports. The turnout for the entire constituency where over 12 lakh voters are registered, is 13 percent till 11 am.
According to official estimates, while 20 percent voters exercised their rights in Ganderbal area in central Kashmir, Budgam assembly sector witnessed 15.6 percent voting.
Srinagar is still at a dismal 5 percent.
Although area like Hazratbal, Zabidal, Khanyar and Idgah witnessed comparatively better turnouts and crossed double figures percentage in many polling booths, areas like Gojwara, Nowhatta, Safakadal had polling booths were one or two votes were cast.
“There are three polling booths in Islamia School, till 10.30 am only three votes were cast. Around 2000 people are registered here,'' said a polling official, who wished not to be named.
The officials there were discharging their duties in constant fear of ‘attacks by civilian”. “We witnessed very massive stone pelting last night. We had to be shifted to the police station for some time,” the polling staff said.
Stone pelting has been reported from some Civil Lines areas like Batamaloo as well.
While the reporter was mobbed outside a polling station in Safakadal, the polling officials said an occasional stone keeps flying over the roof of the school where five booths have been setup.
Just a few kilometers away in Greenland School polling booth, the voters were coming in small groups. “We are not for boycott. Wasting a vote is a sin,” said Imtiaz (name changed). The same feeling was shared by a group of women in Nowpora polling station. “Agar hamey fayida milega hum kyon vote nahi karenge (If we have gotten benefits, why wouldn't we vote,” said a mother in law, daughter in law duo, who did not reveal the names.
While for those going with the separatist boycott call, casting votes equates to “justifying India in Kashmir”, for those who chose to vote, the reasons are many. For some its “honouring the current candidate for good work in the constituency”, for others it’s looking for change as the coalition “failed them on development front”. Some the reason is simple- “wasting a vote is a sin”. “Vote is our right. Why will we waste it,” said Physically challenged Manzoor Wani (name changed), while being helped into the polling station.
Hinna (name changed), who travelled all the way from Mumbai to cast her vote, says the reason is “right representation”. “Even if we want that our voice on human rights, sufferings and even draconian laws like ASFPA, we need the right people to represent us,” said this student of Saint Xaviers in Mumbai.