Shia areas of Budgam may turn the tables amid poll boycott

Shia areas of Budgam may turn the tables amid poll boycott

Chadoora /Budgam: Most villages in Budgam district witnessed low voter turnout on Thursday as people stayed away from polls saying “politicians have failed them”. The Shia dominated areas of the district, however, recorded moderate polling, mostly in favour of Aga Syed Mohsin of PDP and Irfan Raza Ansari of People’s Conference. The high voter turnout in these areas may turn tables for Dr Farooq Abdullah of National Conference. Those who voted in Budgam responded cautiously to questions, saying only that they want to “give chance to new leaders against the oldies”.
“Leaders have cheated us in the past. We don’t trust them now,” said Abdul Gani, a local of BK Pora area, who sided with the general boycott of these elections.
He said the situation had worsened in Kashmir since 2014. “We are suffering due to highhandedness of security personnel every day. Our children are in jails. How can we vote?” he questioned.
Chadoora constituency recorded negligible polling during the first four hours. Till 11am, only 13 voters had turned out to vote in the six polling booths of BK Pora area, out of 4,303 registered voters.
Although the Shia belt of Chadoora including Chattergam, Khanda and Rawatpora witnessed moderate polling till noon, in other areas people stayed away from polling booths.
Outside the Government Boys Higher Secondary School Khanda, which was the only polling station in the village, people voted in large numbers ignoring the boycott call given by pro-freedom parties and militant organisations. They were also unmoved by a poster of a slain militant brandishing an AK-47 rifle and appealing to voters in a bilingual message that said: “No Election, No Selection, Remember Me”; and in Urdu, “Shaheed Humse Keh Rahay Hai, Lahu Hamara Bhula Na Dena; Jab Tab Kashmir Gulam Hai, Tab Tak Vote Haraam Hai (Martyrs are telling us not to forget their blood; voting is sin till Kashmir is under slavery).”
In this village, 342 voters (15.6 %) cast their vote out of 2,193 total voters till 11am, while 156 votes were cast in Chattergam during first three hours out of 2,527 votes.
“We vote because incumbent leaders have failed. Old and dynastic rule must end in Kashmir once for all,” said Ali Muhammad Rather of Chattergam.
He said that young leaders had a good chance this time as the old leadership had failed. “We were supporting Javaid Mustafa Mir in every election because he has worked really hard to help people in the villages. But this time he is not in the fray so we are supporting our Aga sahib,” said Rather.
The trend of low voter turnout also continued in Charar-i-Sharief where 8 percent voting was recorded till noon.
In Trajbal village in Charar-i-Sharief, where clashes broke out between protestors and government forces, only 42 votes were cast till 2pm out of 368 in a nearby polling booth.
Similarly, in Nagam and in main Chadoora, negligible polling was recorded at the polling stations during the morning hours. Only some areas like Doyun village, which is Shia dominated, witnessed brisk polling. The main polling booth of the village recorded 31 percent polling till 1pm.
In some polling booths in Nagam, a few polling staff were sitting in the lawn while scores of paramilitary troops and policemen guarded the station.
Violence was reported in some polling booths including in Chattergam and Charar-i-Sharief. Youths also threw fire crackers and stones towards some polling stations in Khanda and Chattergam areas.