Srinagar’s parliamentary constituency witnessed false alarms, mobilisation of 75,000 troops, clamp-down against separatist supporters, unofficial holiday and thin traffic on roads on the eve of polls.
Tension gripped Srinagar’s Bemina area on Tuesday morning when an unattended bag spread a bomb scare. A bomb disposal squad was rushed to the spot and turned out to be a false alarm. “The bag contained 14 women suits," said a police spokesman. It took an hour to restore traffic on Srinagar-Baramulla highway because of the bag.
Tuesday’s incident was second such alarm since Monday. An unattended lunch box sparked similar reaction at Srinagar’s tourist hub Dalgate yesterday.
With polling staff being mobilised in advance to sensitive areas like the city’s old parts, a number of schools, government offices and administrative buildings remained shut. Employees also left home earlier in the day.
"There have been false alarms of attacks throughout the day. My family decided to reach home before the sundown given the sense of unease on the roads," said Rashid Ahmad, a government employee from old city Srinagar.
The recent twin attacks on poll rallies and mobilisation of security forces infused a sense of fear among people. There was a thin traffic plying on otherwise buzzing commercial areas of Srinagar.
The authorities have deployed security forces’ 27 battalions, around 450 additional companies and around 10,000 cops. Around 75,000 security personnel will ensure peaceful polls tomorrow.
The election commission, which has reduced the polling time by an hour as the polling will end by 5pm only, has declared 324 polling stations in Budgam district critical.
Of total 1,546 polling stations in the constituency, 1,021 remain hyper-sensitive, 470 as sensitive and only 55 as normal.
The authorities continued its crackdown against separatist leaders and supporters to stop any stone pelting incidents during the polls. Around 600 youth have been picked up in the police clampdown. Most separatist groups have called for a poll boycott.
Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, whose all close aides have been taken into preventive custody, described the polls as “drama” and asked people to stay away from it.
“This is a military operation held under the shadow of about eight lakh guns,” said Geelani, who claimed more than 2,000 separatist leaders and his supporters were detained in different police stations and jails.
Invoking Islamic history, Geelani said, “People should adopt the path of Hazrat Hussain and reject Yazeed by boycotting this election drama.”
Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the militant outfit Al-Umar, considered to be close to the Mirwaiz group, have also called for poll boycott.
“The state has declared an open war against the people, especially youth, under the cover of the so called elections,” alleged the Mirwaiz, whose leaders have been detained too by the police.
Yasin Malik lead separatist JKLF claimed that its supporters were arrested during an anti-poll campaign. “Several JKLF activists were held when they were distributing boycott-related written material among people at Lal Chowk,” said JKLF spokesman.
Tomorrow's polls will determine the fate of political bigwig Farooq Abdullah, a National Conference leader and a sitting MP, and also of Peoples Democratic Party's Tariq Hameed Karra. For the first time, Aam Aadmi Party will test waters in the valley too with Raja Muzaffar contesting against the old horses.
12.31 lakh voters eligible to exercise their right to franchise in Srinagar Lok Sabha seat
The constituency covers 15 assembly segments in three districts.
There are 6.28 lakh males and 5.72 lakh females
While there are 30,054 migrant votes, around 256 service voters.