Jammu Kashmir votes braving chill

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Srinagar/Jammu, Nov 17: Jammu and Kashmir went to the polls on Monday, Nov 17 to kickstart crucial staggered elections, with hundreds of thousands braving the winter chill and boycott calls from separatists to vote in the state's three regions amid tight security.

Polling started at 0800 hrs IST amid tight security in 10 constituencies spread over the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh. The voting for the 87 constituencies is being held in seven phases, starting Monday. Barring a clash between a group of people protesting against the elections in Bandipora town and the police and a scuffle between workers of National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the neighbouring Sonawari constituency, balloting was progressing smoothly.

Polling had to be suspended at the Poshpora polling station after workers of NC and PDP clashed over counter-allegations of booth capturing, forcing the authorities to suspend voting. Activists of both parties entered the polling station and destroyed some electronic voting machines (EVM), it was alleged.

Notwithstanding the freezing cold and the fear of the separatists, the trickle of voters at polling stations across the 10 constituencies in the Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir Valley regions continued. The crowds were increasing as the day progressed.

Till 1400 Hrs IST, in Jammu region, Mundher reported a turnout of 60 per cent, Poonch Haveli 52 and Surankot 42, while the figures for the four seats in Ladakh region are Zanskar 45, Kargil 42, Nobra 36 and Leh 32.2.

Gurez in the Kashmir Valley topped with 51 per cent followed by Bandipora 29 and Sonawari 28. This is significant given the boycott call of the separatists and the fear of violence in the region.

People clad in woollens and holding kangris (traditional earthen firepots woven over with willow reeds) were seen queueing up outside polling stations in Bandipora and Sonawari in the Valley right since the morning.

Separatist leaders, many of them jailed during the run-up to the vote, had asked people in the Kashmir Valley to boycott the polls.

Hurriyat Conference, the main separatist group, had even called for a march in Bandipora and Sonawari against the elections.

But adequate security at all polling stations ensured there was no such move by the Hurriyat till noon. Dotting every road in the Kashmir valley are armed paramilitary troopers and policemen. All entry points to these two constituencies were under check.


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