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55 per cent turnout in J&K

The fourth phases of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday saw a turnout of more than 55 per cent as voters braved freezing temperatures to reach polling stations. Arun Joshi reports.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2008 23:37 IST
Arun Joshi

The fourth phases of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday saw a turnout of more than 55 per cent as voters braved freezing temperatures to reach polling stations.

Eighteen constituencies in Baramulla and Badgam in Kashmir and Udhampur and Reasi districts in Jammu went to the polls that are staggered over seven phases. Three more rounds of voting remain in the state.

Three photo-journalists were injured, one of them critically, in police action in Sopore on Sunday morning when they were covering anti-election protests. Mukthiar Ahmad of the Associated Press was said to be critical. Protesters took to the streets as soon as the polls opened. The protests grew louder and people started throwing stones at the security forces as the journalists arrived at the scene.
Piara Singh and 60 members of his marriage party cast votes at Bikhangala polling station in Udhampur district before leaving for the bride’s house in Doda. “It’s the responsibility of the youth to strengthen democracy,” said the groom. While 110-year-old Bhagat Ram, voted at Mang in Ramnagar segment, 105-year-old Jail Singh was a voter at Kheralad in Reasi.
Sukh Devi and Jamal Din, both aged 110, braved biting cold to be among the early voters for the fourth phase of the assembly polls. While Sukh Devi voted at Mahore-I polling station in Gulabgarh constituency, at 63-Paratmoila polling station in Gool-Arnas, Jamal Din braved the fog and morning chill to cast his vote soon after the polls opened. His family members had brought him to the booth.

British and German diplomats watched as voters made way to the polling stations in Singhpora along Srinagar-Uri highway. “We want something that can change our lives,” Gulshan Bano of Singhpora said. The area is facing water and power shortage.

But in the towns of Sopore, hometown of hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and Baramulla, polling booths were deserted. Three photojournalists were injured in Sopore as people protesting against polls clashed with security forces.

Sopore, which recorded a turnout of 8.09 per cent in 2002, recorded 20 per cent voting. However, in Dooru, Geelani's ancestral village, there was near total boycott of voting.

In Baramulla, turnout was over 27 per cent. It was 24.14 per cent in the last elections.

By the close of polling, Uri constituency in the Valley registered the maximum 71 per cent turnout, followed by Charar-e-Sharif (62), Khansahib (61), Gulmarg (60), Pattan (52), Budgam and Chadura (50 each), Beerwah (48), Sangrama (45) and Rafiabad (40).

In the Jammu region, Gool Arnas, once the operational hub of the militants in lower Pirpanchal ranges, reported a turnout of 76 per cent followed by Reasi with 73, Gulabgarh 70, Udhampur 65, Ramnagar 64 and Chenani 58.

“An estimated 55 per cent voters peacefully exercised their right to vote,” R. Bhattacharya, deputy election commissioner, told reporters in New Delhi.

Bhattacharya said there was no major untoward incident.

In Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, Chief Electoral Officer B.R. Sharma said the poll percentage in the 18 constituencies had marginally improved as compared to the 2002 elections.

The 18 constituencies recorded a turnout of 48 per cent in 2002, Sharma noted.

(With Agency inputs)

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