Sumbal, Bandipora: More than 50 percent votes were polled here in north Kashmir’s Sumbal block but the voters frowned at cameras and reporters throughout the day. Most of them said that the “situation was not conducive” for them to publicly talk about their reasons for voting, but they mentioned “development” as the main one. Some of them agreed to talk to this reporter, but on the condition of remaining incognito.
In village Kawpura, where more than 48 percent votes were polled, a handful of posters with election symbols were pasted on trees and walls, giving the impression that a healthy competition was on. A small crowd of men of various ages gathered around the polling station, situated amid Chinar trees, heavily clothed in the winter chill of the morning.
An old man was brought on motorcycle to the booth, where he cast his vote. Some older men who waited outside “grasping the mood of the voters” said that the reason for them to come and vote was to get “small development works done”.
A young man among them said, “We have to keep BJP out, that’s why we are voting.”
In Kawpura village, two Independent candidates were contesting for Sarpanch and two for Panch, among whom one is from the BJP.
A pheran-clad man with dark complexion and wearing an Afghan cap said, “We are at a loss from everywhere. Whosoever is dying, either that be a militant, informer, policeman, it’s our loss. The men are from our soil; it is only us who are being pushed to the wall.” He cited the recent spate of killings of informers, policemen and militants, and said, “The boycott didn’t do us any good, as the BJP made inroads due to NC and PDP’s wrong decisions.”
In the meanwhile, an old man paced out, almost running away from the polling booth, and trying to wipe the ink off his thumb with a maple leaf. He said he had to wipe off the mark. “I cannot keep it like this. It has to go, and go now,” he said, pacing away.
In village Ninnara, where 45 percent votes were polled, the voters also cited development as reason for voting. The village has been registered as a new panchayat Halqa. “So, this is our own election,” said a man who does business in south Kashmir. “Otherwise, if it would have been any other election, we would have definitely boycotted given the situation in Kashmir,” he said.
Paramilitary forces in olive greens surrounded the polling booth here, which was situated amid densely populated willows and poplars that had shed their leaves. Many armed personnel were seen beating the chill by burning heaps of dried leaves.
One of the busiest polling stations here was Rakh-e-Shilvat, where voters were seen flocking from early morning. Here, too, the voters remained reluctant to talk to the media. No videos or photos were allowed. Though 1,162 out of the 2,426 votes here were polled, for a CRPF man on duty outside the booth, elections in Kashmir were an unusual experience.
“I have served on election duty many times, in states like Bihar as well, and though the situation around this polling booth seems a little normal, overall it is altogether different in Kashmir,” he said, and added sarcastically with a smile, “Everything is okay in Kashmir.”