‘I have cast my vote for a symbol. God knows who the candidate is’

‘I have cast my vote for a symbol. God knows who the candidate is’
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Bandipora: Voters indifferent to knowledge of candidates; old tribal woman says: ‘I don’t have any inkling who I voted for’

Bandipora: With a sort of blissful ignorance, moderate to brisk polling took place on Thursday in different segments of Bandipora district, part of the Baramulla parliamentary seat, with Sumbal assembly segment taking the lead, followed by Bandipora and Gurez.
As the day began, voters came out in ones and twos in main town Bandipora to exercise their franchise. However, the voter flow didn’t witness any change throughout the day with several polling stations here wearing a deserted look.
The scenes were entirely different in Sumbal constituency, where a large number of people including women made long queues outside polling stations.
However, in volatile Hajin town, some kilometers from Sumbal, people observed a near boycott, allowing polling staff a leisurely day.
In Gurez, moderate turnout was witnessed, reports said.
In Bandipora segment’s tribal settlements in the hilly areas, moderate polling took place. Most of the electorate, however, was unaware of the candidates they were voting for.
In the semi- nomadic village of Malangam, men and women flocked to the polling stations donning traditional and bright coloured clothes. Surprisingly, most of them who this reporter talked to were unaware of the candidates in fray.
A 75-year-old woman, who identified herself as Bibi Begum, came out hastily from one of the polling booths at Malangam with her thumb and index finger stained with the blue election ink. On asking her who she voted for, Bibi shied away and broke into a suppressed smile, which she tried to hide with a shawl. She said, “I don’t know the purpose for which I have voted, nor do I know any candidate. I don’t have any inkling who I voted for.”
On way to another polling station, 24-year-old Javed Ahmad, a dry fruit trader in Srinagar, said that he cast his vote for Engineer Rashid, because of his style and fearless speech.
“The way he talks impresses me. He seems fearless and he may talk about resolution of the Kashmir issue in Parliament, too,” he said.
An old man, Mohammad Ahmad Chowkar, who was basking in the afternoon sun wearing fat glasses, said with a toothless smile, “I have cast my vote for a symbol. God knows who the candidate is.”
Beside him was 30-year-old Showkat Ahmad Kalas, who made a similar statement of voting for a symbol.
A group of women, of different ages, who refused to identify themselves, said: “We haven’t seen any candidate and don’t know who they are. We just went in and cast our votes.”
Though the situation in the district remained comparatively peaceful, there were stray stone-pelting incidents in at least five to six areas which included Hajin, Lankreshipora, Qazipora, Khayar, Saderkoot, and Sodnara. Clashes were witnessed in Inderkoot in Sumbal between polling agents of rivals Peoples Conference and National Conference.