SRINAGAR: Journalists covering the first phase of municipal polls on Monday had a tough time as voters refused to speak about their reason to vote, while at many polling stations government forces did not allow journalists entry.
Total polling for three wards in Srinagar was recorded at 6.2% by 4pm, when the voting time had ended, according to an official statement.
At the polling station for Ward-17 in Hamdaniya Colony, journalists were allowed entry but the voters neither talked nor allowed a photo or video be taken of them by journalists. This led to arguments several times which calmed down only when police officials intervened.
One instance went to such an extreme that a voter threw stones at a photographer.
“Don’t click our pictures or else we will hit you, break your cameras,” shouted a voter to a group of journalists. A senior journalist replied, “Please hide your faces if you have issues. We are doing our duty just like you are doing yours (voting).”
Following this, a group of civil administrators asked a top police officer to remove the journalists from the polling station. The police officer asked him to issue orders for this.
“We have a pass issued by the chief electoral officer that allows us entry here,” another senior journalist said to them. Now an officer from the CRPF intervened. He told the journalist to not take voters’ photos because it endangers their life.
This scene was prevalent since 7am when the polling started, up till 11am. This polling station was attracting journalists because it was recording the highest voting percentage. By the same time (11am), other polling stations at Narakar and Sharaifabad had seen negligible voting. In Narakar, zero votes had been cast out of 1,036, while at Sharafabad there were less than 20 out of 1,074.
At four polling booths for Ward-74, journalists were told outright by cops to not enter the station. Until 3pm, only 8 votes had been cast out of 4,000. There was no vote cast at the other two polling booths for the ward.
At Narkara polling booth, journalists were also denied entry despite having entry passes. Here, until 3:30pm, just half an hour ahead of the closing time, no votes were cast out of 3,316 votes.
“The SP sahib told us not to allow entry (of journalists),” said a cop at Narkara polling station, who refused to be named.