‘No one is here except stones’

‘No one is here except stones’

Deserted booths surprise paramilitary personnel

BUDGAM: Koi nahi ha yaha pathar ke siva (No one is here except the stones), a Central Reserve Police Force personal guarding a polling station at Kawoosa village of Budgam district remarked.
Sitting idle in lawn of a Middle School used as a polling station, the CRPF troopers have been “kept on toes” by youths. Besides, they said, have not seen a voter or polling agent since morning.
Their fellow troopers, guarding other polling stations across in different areas had similar remarks.
Deserted polling booths and a “gloomy atmosphere” raised question mark in their minds about the “democracy”, the “media” and the politicians across the country.
A trooper hailing from Himachal Pradesh told this reporter that the media channels and journalists across India have been portraying “wrong message to a large chunk of people”.
“Had they been true in showing the ground reality of Kashmir, we (troopers on duty) could have at least seen a voter here,” he quipped.
When asked for comments why people here boycott, he replied, “You are from the media, you must know the reason for people boycotting the elections,” he said, however, was snubbed by his senior before he could narrate his opinion.
Another trooper, Surndre, deployed at Kawoosa 17-D polling station was surprised by the abysmal voting percentage or total absence of the electorate from the booths.
“No one has visited here to cast his vote. It is zero percent here. The polling staffers are all waiting,” he said.
Corroborating his remarks a polling officer, added there are total of 953 registered voters at this booth. At 5:30 pm, he said, not a single voter had turned up so far.
As I walked out, the trooper continued, smiling. “I wasn’t wrong. We too are waiting for somebody to turn up,” he said, as another trooper standing next to him, burst into laughter.
He added, “I have been here during 1999 elections. However, there was no stone pelting those days, instead the armed men would often rain bullets on deployment”.
“The voting percent had never declined to this extent in earlier days, but now it has gone from bad to worse,” he said, adding the reason he could understand “is the dubious character of netas who have always breached the trust of a common man”.
The situation was almost grim many other places of the district as well with people mostly staying away from polling stations.
When this correspondent reached Arath the area looked like a military garrison, with a huge number of troops guarding roads and the polling station.
There was no voter inside the polling station. A few polling agents mulled around, idly.
At about 3:30am, polling booth Arath (A) had recorded 5 votes of its 1,031 registered voters. In polling booth 5 (B), 3 votes were cast of the 910 voters on the rolls.
“People are fed up with the fake promises of the politicians, and have lost interest in election system,” a local Sakib Nabi said. “We have never ever seen any kind of developmental works taking place here”.
Another polling agent who had cast his vote early morning said voters were not coming “because the pro-Indian politicians had lost credibility among people”.
He also cited “2016 bloodbath” as a reason of election boycott in Kashmir.
Sakib added, “How can you expect us to vote when our brothers were blinded and maimed? When most of my friends have been put behind bars since a month for no fault of theirs?”
“We do not believe in Indian politics. It is all about legalising the oppression here. We just want our basic right to self determination,” he aid.
“We will not vote. We can’t sell the sacrifices of our brothers for petty votes. We want freedom,” a youth Dawood from Kawoosa told Kashmir Reader. “The poll boycott in this village has happened for the first time.”