Kashmir panchayat polls begin Wednesday

April 13th, 2011 - 12:44 am ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, April 12 (IANS) Panchayat elections are being held in Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of ten years, with the first phase of voting of the 16-phase elections in eight blocks of the Kashmir Valley and Jammu Wednesday.

The blocks include Kangan, Badgam, Qoimoh and Kupwara in the Valley and Samba, Bishna and Udhampur in Jammu region.

While other separatist leaders have maintained a discrete silence over the elections which are meant for devolution of power to the grassroots level, senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has asked people not to participate in the polls.

In all, 4,128 panchayats across the state will go to polls, which will end by May.

The panchayat polls are being held after the successful state assembly elections in 2008, in which over 62 percent turnout was recorded despite stiff opposition by separatist groups here.

Boycott calls by Geelani notwithstanding, hundreds of candidates, including women, have filed nominations for the elections which are being held on a non-party basis.

No mainstream political party has been allowed to field candidates.

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) are not being used in the poll and paper ballots will not be used.

The panchayat members, and the heads will be elected directly by the people.

Security for the polls has already been reviewed by the various security and intelligence agencies here.

Besides taking stock of specific threat perceptions at the village levels, security personnel will be deployed in all areas to assure voters and encourage them to come out and vote, sources said.

More than five million people are eligible to vote.

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