Brisk voting, long queues in Kashmir (Lead)

November 30th, 2008 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Kupwara, Nov 30 (IANS) People in large numbers queued up outside polling booths in five constituencies of the Kashmir Valley as the third round of the staggered assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir was underway Sunday amid a winter chill and a boycott call by Muslim separatists.The electoral battle, expected to throw surprises, is interesting because slain separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone’s daughter Shabnum is contesting as an independent candidate from Kupwara constituency.

Shabnum’s two brothers Bilal and Sajad Lone — also separatist leaders — are, however, vociferously campaigning for a boycott of the elections.

Brisk and peaceful polling was reported till afternoon from the five constituencies of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district where balloting began on a dull note in the morning due to the cold weather, officers said.

The election officials said by 12 noon, Handwara registered the highest 28 percent turnout and Karnah recorded 27 percent.

In Kupwara - where Shabnum is contesting - 25 percent of the voters exercised their franchise till noon. Lolab and Langate each registered 22 percent turnout.

The large turnout and winding queues outside the polling stations are significant in view of the boycott call by the separatists, which voters defied in the first and second phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir will witness a total of seven rounds of polling, ending Dec 24. The votes will be counted four days later.

For the 335,927 eligible voters, including 163,144 women, in this round there are 480 polling stations. Seventy-one candidates, including 31 independents and five women, are in the fray.

There were long queues of electors at Kulangam, Chokel and Puriphet polling stations of Handwara constituency.

At Puriphet, voters were enthusiastic though balloting started an hour late because of a faulty electronic voting machine (EVM).

Except for an anti-election protest in Trehgam village of Kupwara constituency, no untoward incident was reported. A team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) used batons to disperse the protesters shouting pro-freedom slogans, a police officer said.

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