Thousands vote in Kashmir defying chill, boycott calls (Second Lead)December 7th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by IANS
Jammu/Srinagar, Dec 7 (IANS) Thousands braved freezing temperatures and poll boycott call by separatists to vote in the fourth of the seven-phase Jammu and Kashmir elections Sunday. Polling continued to pick up in 12 constituencies of Baramulla and Badgam districts in the Kashmir Valley, and had crossed an average 50 percent for the six seats in Udhampur and Reasi districts of Jammu region.
Barring minor incidents and anti-poll protests, balloting continued peacefully with enthusiastic voters trickling in at a steady pace at most polling stations.
A posse of security personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the local police was deployed in strength to ensure peaceful polling. The state assembly has 87 seats.
As many as 1.4 million people are eligible to vote in Sunday’s poll.
Till 2 p.m., Uri constituency in the Valley registered the maximum 51 percent turnout, followed by Gulmarg (43), Charar-e-Sharif (38), Khansahib (37), Beerwah (35), Badgam (34.5), Rafiabad (33), Chadura (31), Pattan and Sangrama (30 each), Baramulla (15) and Sopore (12).
In Dooru, the ancestral village of separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani in Sopore, there was near total boycott of voting.
In 2002, Sopore had witnessed only 8.09 percent polling.
Officials in Sopore said the turnout should be considered satisfactory in view of the poll boycott call and fear of violence.
There was no major incident reported, except one where four photojournalists sustained injuries when security personnel were trying to disperse a group of anti-poll protestors in Arampora area in Sopore.
The protestors were out since morning dissuading people from casting their votes and clashed with security forces, who used batons and tear-gas shells to disperse the group.
The photographers, who were covering the clash, alleged that the security staff roughed them up. They were taken to a hospital nearby and later referred to Srinagar for better treatment.
They were identified as Tauseef Mustafa from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Mukhtar Ahmed (Associated Press), Faiyaz Kabli (Reuters) and Masood Hussain (The Economic Times).
In Jammu region, there was enthusiasm to vote just like in the previous three phases of polling. This phase will cover the Hindu majority pockets of Jammu district.
Polling was in progress for Udhampur, Chenani and Ramnagar (Scheduled Caste) seats in Udhampur district and Reasi, Arnas and Gulabgarh in Reasi district.
A minor clash between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress supporters was reported from Udhampur constituency in the region.
In another incident, 100-odd people blocked the Jammu to Srinagar national highway near Udhampur when they found their names missing from the voter list.
As many as 902,951 people are eligible to vote in 1,172 polling stations in the Kashmir Valley’s 12 constituencies. All the voting centres have been described as sensitive, meaning there could be trouble there.
There are 176 candidates, including 13 senior politicians and former ministers, in the fray for the 12 seats.
Over 498,000 voters in Jammu region have a choice of 81 candidates in the six seats. There are 721 polling centres.
Each of the dozen constituencies in the Valley has local factors influencing the voters’ preferences, while there are multi-cornered contests in the Jammu region with a large number of candidates trying their luck.