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Democracy blooms in a polling booth in Kangan even as violence mars Srinagar bypoll

Electorates at the booth say happenings in rest of the valley don’t affect them

india Updated: Apr 09, 2017 20:01 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times, Kangan
Democracy,Srinagar bypoll,Kashmir violence
Women coming out from a polling station after casting their vote at Budgam in Srinagar on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

A polling booth in trouble-torn Kashmir witnessed serpentine queues of voters on Sunday while rest of the valley witnessed violence and poll boycott.

From early morning old and young, men and women, decked up in traditional phirans (rob), were seen queuing up at booth number 47 in Kathi Wangat in Kangan. By 10am already 200, out of the 997, votes were cast at the booth.

The booth is under Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah is contesting the seat that fell vacant after the resignation of Peoples Democratic Party’s Tariq Hameed Karra during last year’s unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

At least six people were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters as multiple-polling stations in other parts of the constituency were attacked by stone pelters.

The violence affected the overall voting percentage which in some booths was below 1% in the first two hours.

Electorates at Wangat say happenings in rest of the valley don’t affect them.

“We are not Kashmiris we are Paharis. We will exercise our franchise as out vote is sacred,’’ said 76-year-old Mahommad Yaqub.

Traditionally a NC bastion, Wangat had elected the party’s candidate Mian Altaf in 2014 assembly elections.

The residents, most of who say they are originally Pathans from Khyber-Pastoon belt of Pakistan, claim allegiances to Mian, who comes from a family of a saint and is now a landlord of the area. So they will vote for his party’s candidate.

The electorates said they were voting for a change.

``The PDP-BJP government has given us nothing. We have to produce Aadhaar card for everything. We don’t even get ration if we don’t have it. To make an aadhaar card, we have to forgo one or two days wages,’’ said another voter Mohammad Sulieman.

However, some villages in the area complained that masked men have occupied polling booths and are not letting voters to enter.

A group of villagers from Chak Kasnabal said they wanted to vote, but some people did not allow them in.

Like rest of the valley, booths in other parts of Kangan area too registered poor voter turnout.

“I have never seen such a hostile atmosphere since the inception of militancy in the valley. Security arrangements are not inadequate and voters are not feeling confident to vote,’’ Altaf Hussain, NC MLA from the area told HT.

But even in this Kathi Wangat village generation gap is evident.

While the older generation is committed to vote, the youngsters mostly school going children are not immune to happenings in the rest of the valley.

The children who are yet to get the right to vote as yet say unlike their elders they are not excited about election process.

``What have we achieved by voting? When I grow up I will never vote,’’ said a teenager, whose father is a polling agent of a political party.

Many young children endorsed this teenager’s discontentment. ``When we are living in Kashmir we are Kashmirs. Pahari is our identity, but we are also Kashmiris. They kill our brother, so why should we vote,’’ said a class 9 student.

First Published: Apr 09, 2017 19:08 IST

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