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Round 7, the final test today

india Updated: Dec 23, 2008 23:57 IST
Rashid Ahmad and Arun Joshi

There’s an air of uncertainty hanging over the seventh and the last phase of the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Reason: eight of the 21 seats going to polls are in Srinagar, the bastion of poll boycotts in the past. In 2002, the total polling percentage in Srinagar’s eight constituencies was a little over 4 per cent.

The question playing on the minds of the authorities is: Will the people come out and vote?

“Intercepts show that terrorists and separatists will make attempts to disrupt proceedings so that the people don’t participate in the elections,” said Kuldeep Khoda, Director General of Police, J&K.

Srinagar has been placed under undeclared curfew and there are severe restrictions on civilian movement.

Police authorities privately admit that the restrictions have been put in place to stall the separatists’ call for a march to Lal Chowk on Wednesday.

Kashmir Coordination Committee, an amalgam of separatist factions, businessmen and lawyers, has called for a valley-wide march to Lal Chowk in Srinagar as a part of its campaign to boycott the polls.

“It is for the people to decide whether they want to vote or not. Our main concern is to ensure that those who want to vote are not prevented are not prevented from doing so,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.

Two leading separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq live in Srinagar, and peaceful polling will mean a massive loss of face for them.

As a result of these restrictions, Kashmir University has had to postpone the BA II examinations and local newspapers, too, have decided not to bring out their papers on Wednesday.

Of the remaining 13 seats, 11 are in Jammu and two in the newly created Samba district.