Shopian: Pro-freedom songs blare from mosque loudspeakers

Anantnag, Shopian: Major towns of this south Kashmir district that went to Lok Sabha polls on Thursday witnessed largely a low turnout while rural areas saw relatively decent polling even as pitched battles were fought between youth and police and CRPF men at various places on an eventful day.
As the main townships of Anantnag and Kulgam observed civil curfew and stayed away from polls on the call of pro-freedom parties, the people in Shopian town fought pitched battles with police and CRPF men.
In Shopian, the protesters had erected barricades at the main entries to stop the police’s way-in into the town while the pro-freedom songs and lectures were put on mosque loudspeakers to press for boycott.
The protesters chanting pro-freedom and anti-poll slogans like “we want freedom” and “boycott boycott … election boycott” also pelted stones at some polling booths and attacked police and CRPF vehicles which managed to make their entry into the town.
“We are boycotting elections because Geelani sahib has given the call to stay away from polls,” a young protester told Kashmir Reader.
Some people related the pro-freedom and anti-poll sentiment of the people in the town with the history of Kashmir, saying that the region has been showing resistance to every regime that has ruled the Valley during last three hundred years.
“The town has been main entry point to various regimes including Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras into the Valley, and the people here have always strongly resisted to these regimes. So we are resisting the Indian rule and its staged elections here also,” said Abdul Rashid, a senior citizen of the town.
The polling booths in the town also wore a deserted look with the closed gates heavily guarded by police and CRPF inside.
At 5:00 pm in two main polling booths in the town only 07 and 17 votes were polled out of 923 and 657 total registered voters, respectively.
The areas in the outskirts of the town including, Vehil, Memander and Gagran presented a similar picture where roads witnessed heavy deployment of police and CRPF and youth pelting stones on them.
The army had also closed the gates on road at Debagh Army camp blocking the main entry into the town from Anantnag. “The road is closed for everyone today,” said an Army soldier guarding the gate.
In Kulgam town, the people also observed civil curfew by keeping their shops and other establishments closed and preferring to stay inside their house.
“We don’t want to participate in the  polls which are fruitless for us,” said group of youth in the town.
However, with no protests or stone pelting, moderate polling was going on in polling booths normally.
At 5:30 pm, in two main polling booths of the town, 142 and 140 votes were polled out of 629 and 604 total registered voters, respectively.
But in the outskirts of the town at Bichoora village, large number of youth had gathered on road chanting pro-azadi and anti-poll slogans and pelting stones at police and CRPF personnel.
“No one has polled here thus far. We have kept the price of Rs 10,000 for a person who will dare to cast the first vote here,” said one of the youth.
The youth also said that the police and CRPF personnel raided their houses and smashed their window panes in the morning to “create fear among the people supporting the boycott.”