Moazum Mohammad/ Nazir Gillo
Srinagar: Urban Srinagar lived up to its image of the place where an overwhelming majority of the population has been boycotting elections consistently since 1990.
Nearly all polling booths in the city were peopled by polling staff and police and paramilitary troopers, most of them basking in the sun or waiting the elusive voters in cold rooms of schools or government buildings or community halls.
At the government higher secondary school Nawakadal, most of the polling staffers were soaking up the sun in the lawns as no voter had turned up till 1pm. The station had 819 votes. In the adjacent 21-Jamalata, only 7 of the total electorate of 618 people had voted.
“Yu chu ganemat yemav troov vote (it is a big thing that even these people came out to vote),” said a polling agents of the National Conference.
In three other polling booths nearby, 19 votes of approximately 1600 votes had been polled.
“Those who voted came early in the morning,” said a polling officer on condition of anonymity.
In Nawab Bazar, only 15 out of the total 736 votes had been cast till 1pm.
The Vasanta Girls High School polling booth at Barbarshah, which wore a festive look during 2014 assembly elections, saw no rush of voters.
Seven booths housed in the school wore and empty look with the staffers and polling agents sitting idle. Out of the total 4918 votes, only 154 had been cast by 1.30pm.
On the road leading to the Batamaloo Girl’s High School, boys were playing cricket and small groups of men were heading home after offering prayers. There was no sign that there were two polling booths inside the school.
“We only faced stones since morning,” said a CRPF trooper guarding the gate. No voter had turned up. No political party had assigned any polling agent to this place considered a resistance bastion.
In the Labour Commissioner’s office situated inside Batamaloo Bus Terminal, six polling booths meant for 4850 voters had seen only six voters till 2pm.
At Bemina Government Degree College, no voter had turned up till 3:35 pm in Bemina-D booth. The booth had 1005 voters. In Bemina-F, 13 people out of the total voter number of 1345 had turned up to vote.
At some distance from the house of Gowhar Nazir, whom the government forces killed on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in 2015, was the polling booth for Zainakote locality.
The booth housed in the government boys higher secondary school was bolted from inside. Outside, the road was littered with rocks.
“Who are you?” shouted a polling staffer when I knocked at the door. After presenting my press credentials, the door was opened.
The polling staff in unison said they did not sleep the whole night as the booth was stoned. They showed me a few rocks that had landed up inside.
“We have been left at God’s mercy here. We shifted a booth to the first floor because of stone throwing,” said the staffers while complaining of inadequate deployment of the forces.
About 10 forces personnel were guarding the booths outside.
Gund Hassi Bhat, neighbouring Zainakote, was different. As many as 218 votes out of 812 votes had been polled till 11:45 am. Similarly, 304 votes out of 699 were cast and 181 votes out of 937 had polled at two other booths.
“We are voting for the PDP here,” said an elderly PDP worker.
Staring at the deserted station in Buchpora, a group of men ridiculing chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and New Delhi expressed their anger like this: “They (Pro-India politicians) should prepare for the worst.”
A trooper stationed at the Government Girls Higher Secondary in Soura, when asked how was the polling proceeding inside, said, “We have been receiving stones only since morning.”
In the nine polling stations house in the school, with a total voter population of more than 5000, only 19 voters had turned up.
This school had to accommodate three more polling booths that were shifted from nearby Anchar locality where people didn’t allow authorities to turn a school into polling stations.
“We remained awake throughout the night of Sunday as we felt they (polling staff) would come during the middle of the night and take shelter inside schools. We sealed all the entry points to restrict them from entering our area,” a group of youth said.
They succeeded and forced administration to shift booths of Anchar to somewhere else. None of the 3000 eligible voters turned up at these booths.
As soon as local residents learned about the arrival of the polling staff at the girls’ high school at about 6 in the morning, they pelted it with stones. They stoned it throughout the day. Loudspeakers blared out pro-freedom songs and slogans.
At another polling station in Buchpora where out of total 2442 voters only four had been cast till 3 pm, the staff were busy preparing tea and soldiers that were guarding the school had been serving chapattis on veranda.
“No votes but only tea,” said a booth-level officer there.
At Umarhair, women were at the forefront of stone throwing protests. Three persons had voted out of the total 516 votes in their locality, two of them being the PDP booth agents.
“We have betrayed our people and have risked our lives to cast our votes and act as agents just because have been promised of jobs by a PDP minister,” the two agents at polling station number 002 of Umar Hair told Kashmir Reader.
The polling stations in posh area of Lal Bazar too looked deserted even the area witnessed no incident of stone-pelting. Out of total 4087 total voters of five booths at Government middle school in Lal Bazar, 30 votes had been casted till 3 pm at these five booths.
In nearby locality of Zadibal, which usually witnesses a good percentage of polling, the mood of people looked somewhat different this time, as the booths witnessed a minuscule percentage actually turning out to vote on Saturday.