SRINAGAR: A shutdown was observed on the first day of Panchayat elections on Saturday in most parts of Kashmir Valley. A total of 47 panchayat blocks went to the polls in the first phase of a nine-phase election process, 16 of which were in Kashmir, 21 in Jammu, and 10 in Ladakh region.
The call for a shutdown was given by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Muhammad Yasin Malik. The trio termed the panchayat elections as a “drama” enacted by the “oppressive regime” in New Delhi. They urged people to reject the polls “in the same way they rejected the Urban Local Body polls by staying indoors.”
The JRL has also called for a shutdown in poll-bound areas on November 29, 24, 27 and 29, and on December 1, 4 and 8, to a give a “clear message to the world that people have no faith in the sham elections which are held under the presence of lakhs of additional forces.”
Shops and other business establishments remained closed and public transport was mostly off the roads on Saturday. There was some movement of private transport, which remains usually the only mode of transport on days of shutdown. Government offices and educational institutions had already been shut by the government in poll-bound areas. Petrol stations were also closed at many locations. Train services were suspended for the day by the railway authorities.
Increased deployment of government forces was seen on roads in old Srinagar. The police termed it a routine exercise to maintain law and order.
High-speed mobile Internet service was suspended during the day in most poll-bound areas. The speed of mobile internet was reduced to 2G in Budgam, Baramulla and Bandipora districts, while it was completely blocked in Kupwara district.