Lease row: Tosmaidan-adjacent villages witness low turnout

SRINAGAR: The villages surrounding Tosmaidan in central Kashmir’s Budgam district Wednesday witnessed a relatively lesser turnout due to the tussle over relocation of an Army firing range from area.
The turnout was much reduced in otherwise pro-election Shunglipora, Sitaran, Drang, Zogu, Chhil, Batapora, Brass, Sigan, Khaipora, Suheilpather, Lassipora, Habar and other adjoining areas of Budgam. Unlike previous elections, long queues of voters and enthusiasm was missing at most polling booths in 52 the villages.
“We had already warned the government. Had the government respected out demands and cancelled the lease, we would have participated in polls like we always have,” Akhtar Ahmad of Sitharan told Kashmir Reader.
“You can clearly see that the polling is low key here as no one is keen to vote for these politicians,” he added.
Around 52 villages of Budgam have been demanding end to the lease over 11, 200 hectare meadow which is being used as a firing range by the Indian army. The locals had threatened to boycott the polls if the lease wasn’t ended after its end on April 18. The government, however, hasn’t come up with any final decision over the matter.
“We stayed away from all political rallies that were held here ahead of elections. Why shall we be part of elections when the politicians we voted for previously didn’t respect our sentiments,” Khazir Mohammad of Drang said. “The boycott may be even worse in the assembly elections if the lease isn’t ended.”
The turnout remained effected even as there was no call for boycott from the Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF)—the body that has been spearheading the agitation against Tosmaidan lease.
“We hadn’t called for boycott, but in our campaigns we had been warning government of going for poll boycott. Today, people didn’t wait for our call. They stayed away from polling on their own keeping in view the warning were giving the government,” Farooq Ahmad, spokesperson of TBF told Kashmir Reader.
TBF is expected to call for a renewed agitation in the coming days.