Srinagar Turns Into a Security Fortress For ByPoll
SRINAGAR: Amid heightened security and escalating violence in Kashmir Valley, voting is underway for Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency which will decide the fate of the National Conference president and former union minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.
Thousands of police and paramilitary troopers faced resistance and stones at some places as they fanned out, along with polling staff, to take control of polling booths of Srinagar constituency spread over Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam districts of the Valley last evening.
In the capital Srinagar, government forces have taken over many educational institutions including the historic SP college which was shut over the last four days in the run up to the election while roads and important landmarks are under siege. A mysterious blast in Khayam Saturday afternoon spread panic in the city.
"Apropos to some updates on social networking groups regarding an explosion in Khayam area of Srinagar this afternoon, it is clarified that the very low intensity blast was due to the mishandling of a teargas canister,” said a J&K Police spokesman.
Situation is also tense in Budgam too where three civilians were killed near an encounter site in Chadoora village by government forces last month. Clashes broke out in the area yesterday after forces and polling staff arrived in the area for election duty.
"Clashes erupted between youth and forces after a motorcade of polling staff and paramilitary troopers was attacked with stones in Hayatpora area of Chadoora. Forces resorted to teargas shelling after youth pelted stones on the motorcade," witnesses said.
"We have taken adequate precautions to prevent any untoward incident. There were reports of protests breaking out in some areas of the constituency last night but they were brought under control. It's going to be a tough day and we are hopeful it will pass off peaceably," a senior police officer said, wishing anonymity.
The Hurriyat has appealed people to boycott the election in protest against the spate of civilian killings which began with the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani last year in July. The campaigning also remained a low-key affair amid fears of violence.
For the first time in many years, there were no election rallies in any part of the Valley due to a sharp rise in insurgency-related violence, forcing the political parties to meet their workers behind the guarded houses or public properties amid fears of attacks by militants.
Unlike the past, there is a likelihood of low voter turnout in this election in the Valley due to anger against the mainstream political leaders who are seen to have failed to live up to the expectation of the people, coupled with rising anti-India sentiment.
"All political parties; be it NC, Congress or PDP, they have miserably failed to provide relief to common man which is disillusioned and angry. Forget larger politics and development, they almost drowned Srinagar again due to their sheer incompetence," Abdul Rahim, a trader in Lal Chowk, said.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party has fielded Nazir Ahmad Khan, a former Congress leader who nearly defeated former CM Omar Abdullah in the 2014 assembly elections, against Dr Abdullah who is at the fag end of his political career and hoping to stage a comeback.
(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)