A Bandipora battle: Stones rain down from quarries to keep voters at bay

A Bandipora battle: Stones rain down from quarries to keep voters at bay
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SADERKOTE (BANDIPORA): In scenes resembling a sort of ancient warfare, a bunch of youths had taken positions atop stone quarries and were raining down stones on the polling booth below, while the chiselling of stones continued in the hamlet of Saderkote Bala in Bandipora on Thursday.
The polling booth was located along the main Bandipora road inside a government boys’ high school in Malpora area. The stone-pelting, which was aimed at the main road outside the polling booth, kept shifting gears throughout the day. With no dearth of stone splinters cast out by the chiselling work, the boys had ammunition aplenty. Shelling from government forces served as no deterrence, but pleas from locals to desist did have some effect.
Riyaz Ahmad, who runs a kane-wane (a stone dressing and chiselling workshop) at the quarry, said he was worried that sharp-edged stones raining down from the hilltop could inflict serious injury.
“Youth in our area are against the elections, and so are most of the inhabitants who are staying away from the polls. The (stone) pelting is only to stop voters,” he said.
Ahmad confided that many people in the area are of the opinion that electing a member to Parliament may ensure safeguards against removal of Constitutional provisions related to special status of Jammu & Kashmir. He himself, though, was least confident that it would be of any help.
“For me, the best thing to do among the flying stones and the voting is to carry on with the chiselling of hamam slabs and other stone edifices,” he said, adding that for others the choice may be to vote, and for yet others, to use stones to register their protest.
The stone industry, Ahmad said, employs almost all the people of the hamlet in quarrying and chiselling work. He was quick to show a series of photographs of neatly chiselled stones, which he had prepared, on his mobile phone.
“The stone is our symbol and we ‘vote and vouch’ for it,” he said.
On the other hand, an elderly voter coming down the road, who did not want his name published, said that he was eager to venture to the polling booth as he wanted to keep “communal forces” at bay.
“Voting this time around is to form a sipar (shield). We have to join together to beat the forces among us who are hell-bent on removing many guarantees given to Kashmiris. This voting is a stepping stone to ensure this,” he said.
Quite perturbed by the clashes at the booth, he said that once it subsides, he will cast his vote and also ask his family members to come out to vote.
Inside the boys’ high school, well guarded by contingents of paramilitary and police, many early voters had cast their vote by 11am.
“We have a total of 454 voters and 20 votes have been polled so far, while in another booth more than 100 voters have cast their votes out of the 751 registered,” informed a polling staff.