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JEHANGIR ALI | 10 APRIL, 2017

Under 7% Vote in Srinagar By Poll That Leaves 8 Dead, Countless Injured: Next, Anantnag ByPoll


SRINAGAR: A teenager, along with seven others, was shot dead and nearly 200--including security personnel--injured during clashes as a wave of anti election protests swept central Kashmir all of Sunday. Protestors clashed directly with the heavily armed police and paramilitary forces that had been deployed in full strength for the bypolls.

The polling in Srinagar Lok Sabha cnstitutnecy was marred by violence with over 200 incidents of stone pelting and direct clashes, according to officials. The worst affected was Budgam district of the constituency where seven of the eight civilian protestors were shot dead by the forces in different areas.

The eighth civilian was killed in Ganderbal district. A woman in Dalwan village of Budgam were two protestors were killed earlier in the day, suffered a heart attack when the forces opened fire to disperse protestors. She later died at a hospital, taking the toll of civilian casualties to nine.

“We had a bad day today with 200 incidents of violence in which trucks accompanying polling staff were set on fire, polling booths were targeted and EVMs damaged. 17 protestors and nearly 100 forces personnel were injured,” Chief Electoral Officer Shantamanu told reporters in Srinagar.

At many places, sources said, protestors broke into polling stations and vandalised EVMs. In a video shown on TV news, a large crowd of protestors was seen surrounding a polling station, shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, as a group of CRPF personnel holed up in the building and showing extreme restraint, looked on helplessly.

Officials said the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat recorded nearly seven percent voter turn out, a sharp dip from the 2014 Lok sabha elections where over 26 percent voters had exercised their franchise. “Elections could not be concluded in some places and around 50-100 booths recorded no polling at all,” Shantamanu said.

The fresh spate of civilian killing sparked anger among people across the Valley which has been reeling under strike calls and curfews since the last year’s killing of Burhan Wani. Authorities suspended mobile internet and broadband services on Saturday midnight. The Hurriyat Conference has called for a two day shutdown in protest against the killings.

“I have never seen such violence in my political career spanning six elections. In 2008, despite the agitation, the situation was far beter. This time, the state government and New Delhi have failed to address the concerns of the people and I blame Mehbooba Mufti for failing to be our spokesperson,’ former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said.

Abdullah’s father and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah is the joint candidate of the NC-Congress alliance for the Srinagar seat. His main rival from the Peoples Democratic Party Nazir Ahmad Khan, lost with a margin of less than 1000 votes to Omar Abdullah in the 2014 state Assembly elections.

Ahead of the election on Sunday,the Centre had despatched 200 companies of police and paramilitary forces to Kashmir amid fears of political violence with the Hurriyat appealing to the people to boycott the polls. The election to Srinagar and Anantnag bypolls was delayed on two occasions against the backdrop of the 2016 civil uprising.

At the end of the polling, Shantamanu said, the Election Commission is ready to face challenges and it will perform its duty “with utmost sincereity and commitment.” He further said that though the situation had “turned bad” on Sunday, the Anantnag bypoll will be held as per scheduled on April 12.

Anantnag was the epicentre of the 2016 violence. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Tasaduq Mufti is pitted against GA Mir, the joint candidate of the NC-Congress alliance. Counting of votes will be held on April 15.

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