Srinagar turnout lowest in 27 yrs
Violence marred the by-election to the Srinagar parliamentary constituency on Sunday, leaving eight people dead and 117, including 100 securitymen, injured.
The turnout was only 6.5 per cent, with only 80,000 out of the 12.61 lakh voters exercising their franchise. This was the lowest turnout in the state in the last 27 years of militancy-hit elections. Despite boycott calls by separatists, more than 26 per cent people had cast their votes in the 2014 parliamentary polls. The Anantnag constituency goes to polls on Wednesday.
Large-scale violence and arson dominated central Kashmir. Maximum violence was reported from Budgam district of central Kashmir, where people pelted stones and stormed polling booths.
Security forces fired at protesters and the stone-pelting mobs at different places. “Today was not a good day… There were more than 200 incidents in the constituency, particularly in Budgam district. The incidents included stone-pelting and petrol bomb attacks,” Shantmanu, Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir, said.
Protesters also damaged several Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). “We recovered many EVMs. There were firing incidents and seven lives were lost and 17 civilians were injured. More than 100 police and paramilitary personnel were injured,” said Shantmanu.
One of the polling booths was set ablaze and there were attempts to set afire a few more. “Because of that, we had to temporary close polling booths. Some of vehicles, including SRTC and private vehicles, were set ablaze”, said Shantmanu.
Though protesters held several securitymen hostage for a brief period, they released them later.
“A team of election observers, returning officers and presiding officers (PO) will examine the PO diary and take a final call on what has to be done in those places where elections could not be concluded,” said Shantmanu.
Main opposition party National Conference (NC) went hammer and tongs against the government for failing to maintain the law-and-order situation. “This government has failed in providing a peaceful atmosphere. I have heard two people have died and many injured in pellet-gun firing. It shows the situation has worsened”, said Farooq Abdullah, NC President, who is a joint candidate of the NC-Congress alliance in Srinagar.
The separatists have called for a two-day bandh from Monday to protest the killings of seven civilians.
The bigger challenge for the authorities will be the second phase of polling in Anantnag constituency on Wednesday. Spread over four districts, having 16 assembly segments, Anantnag is infested with militants and stone-throwers. “Certainly it is much bigger challenge so we will face that,” said Shantmanu.
- Srinagar LS bypoll
- Parliamentary polls
- Farooq Abdullah
- Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)
- National Conference (NC)