Thousands defy separatists to vote in Kashmir Valley (Third Lead)

April 30th, 2009 - 4:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Anantnag (Jammu and Kashmir), April 30 (IANS) Tens of thousands defied death threats from Pakistan-based terrorists to vote Thursday in the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in the Kashmir Valley.
Nearly 15 percent of Anantnag’s 1.16 million electorate had voted by 1 p.m. across the southern Kashmir constituency despite a shutdown called by the separatists to trip the electoral process, officials said.

“The polling percentage for Anantnag was 14.52 percentage at 1 p.m.,” one official told IANS

“Though there is less voting in cities and towns in (the districts of) Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam, rural areas have witnessed a better turnout,” the official said.

The main contest in the constituency is between the Peoples Democratic Party’s Peer Muhammad Hussain and Mirza Mehboob Beg of the ruling National Conference.

While both the moderate and radical wings of the Hurriyat Conference called for an election boycott, the Pakistan-based United Jehad Council as well as Lashkar-e-Taiba terror groups had threatened voters with death.

When the voting began at 7 a.m., very few voters came out of their homes. In places like Dadsara and Tral in Pulwama district not a single voter was visible in the first two hours.

But the Noorabad assembly segment witnessed brisk polling with 43 percent votes cast by 1 p.m. In Kulgam, there was 13 percent polling, in Devsar 23 percent and in Homeshallibugh 11 percent.

In the 2004 elections, 15.04 percent people voted in Anantnag.

The situation in the entire constituency was peaceful although rival parties accused each other of ferrying voters in private vehicles, which is a violation of electoral laws.

Anantnag is the first of the three Lok Sabha constituencies in the Kashmir Valley to go to the polls. Voting in Srinagar is scheduled May 7 and in Baramulla May 13.

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