Voices from Anantnag convey a sense of total disappointment, deep despair
Anantnag: Throughout the sluggish day of voting in south Kashmir today, voters and polling agents in Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown cited the past three years of misrule and firing of pellets as reasons responsible for the low turnout.
In the town, polling booths were strategically established in unpopulated areas along main roads to avoid disruption and opposition. These strategic booths saw during the day a sparse electorate. As in Bon Dialgam, where booths were established a little away from villages where elections were held, and one of the booths was shifted overnight to avoid trouble from locals.
A PDP polling agent at this booth said that the ongoing situation and threats by militants acted as deterrent.
In the first seven hours of the election, beginning at 7am, the total votes polled in two booths in the school were 86. The electorate in the village was more than 1700.
The PDP worker, who for the first time had been assigned the task of polling agent, described convincing voters to the ballot as the most “challenging”.
He himself was at the booth because of a personal reason, he said. “Otherwise, I am not interested because of the threats and the situation,” he said, pointing to his phone without internet as “zulm”. Mobile internet was suspended a day before, on Monday.
At the government women’s degree college in Anantnag, a thin stream of voters entered the premises with veiled women trying to hide their identity. A young woman covering herself in a veil said she voted for the PDP because of the contribution of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in development of Anantnag’s roads and educational intuitions.
“Even this college was established by Mufti sahib. Mistakes do happen and Mehbooba Mufti could not get enough time to prove herself,” she added.
Many male voters were attempting hard to remove ink from their fingers. A man who said he voted for the Congress while rubbing his finger with his shirt, said he voted against his “party chief” to remind her of the toffee remark and all the pellet firing.
“My vote was against Baji (Mehbooba Mufti) as we can’t forget the pellets fired on boys,” said the middle-aged man in Anantang while showing his wallet, which carried a passport-size photo of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. “He was my leader. But his daughter has ruined her party as well as us. We can’t defend ourselves in front of our detractors,” he said.
At the peak of protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, Mehbooba Mufti alongside Home Minister Rajnath Singh at her Fairview Gupkar residence, justified the killing of civilians by government forces saying those hit by bullets or pellets had not gone to fetch milk or toffees. Just before the elections, the PDP chief apologised for the comments. It apparently did not mean much to the people, even in her stronghold.
A Congress polling agent performing the duty for a second time, said that booths used to be filled with voters in the 2014 assembly elections – when the PDP swept to power in Kashmir.
“It is the first time that the booth is empty. Those who voted (in the last election) did not get anything. This is why it is challenging for us to convince them to vote again,” he said.