A poll official was killed and five others were injured when militants fired upon a CRPF vehicle in South Kashmir’s Shopian area soon after the third phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.
Shopian is part of the Anantnag constituency from where People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Mehboob Beigh contested the election.
Though 28% of the electorate voted in Anantnag this time — a marginal increase from 27.1% in 2009 —the recent killing of two sarpanches and two others by suspected militants in Pulwama district, which is part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, spread fear among voters. As a result, Pulwama saw a significant drop in the turnout – from 10.5% in 2009 to 6.32% on Thursday.
After the attacks on panchayat members, many village-level representatives from the area went into hiding after the police advised them to shift to safer places and keep in touch with the local security agencies.
“Our voter base and supporters will be very reluctant and terrified to vote,” said a sarpanch from an undisclosed location earlier on Thursday.
“There are boys (militant sympathisers) near all polling stations. The town has a deserted look. One doesn’t want to vote and get killed,” said a student in Pulwama.
State chief minister Omar Abdullah told HT on Wednesday that the killing of panchayat members would affect voter turnout. “To give a call for a poll boycott is fine but then they (militants) must give people the freedom to decide whether they wish to heed the call,” he said.