Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces in Budgam district on Sunday, killing seven people and injuring scores. Protesting against the by-elections to the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, agitators hurled stones near the Dalwan Pakerpora polling booth, prompting security personnel to open fire. Similar incidents of violence, reported in several districts across the state, has resulted in a low voter turnout, reported news agency PTI. Two of the injured are reportedly in critical condition.
The voter was at an all-time low of 7.14 per cent, reported PTI.
J&K National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, on casting his vote in Srinagar, condemned the poll violence. “Elections should have been peaceful today, this government has failed in giving a peaceful atmosphere for people to come and vote,” he told ANI.
His son and former chief minister of the state, Omar Abdullah, too said the election process in J-K has deteriorated this year. “I have been a politician for 20 years. I have never seen such a bad situation for elections and campaigning in the state. It is the failure of State Govt, Centre and Election Commission,” he is quoted as saying by ANI. Omar cast his vote on Saturday too.
Two polling stations in the Charar-e-Sharif area were abandoned this morning following heavy stone-pelting, police officials told PTI. Incidents of violence have also been reported from Ganderbal district, Chadoora and Nasrullahpora of Budgam, reported ANI. According to the news agency, four people have been injured in Chadoora and two in Nasrullahpora.
Meanwhile, separatists groups, observing a bandh today, urged people to boycott the election process. Shops, gas stations and other businesses remained closed and public transport was halted too, impacting normalcy in Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal. The state government has declared a holiday in these districts.
Internet services, including WiFi, has been cut off in the Valley, in light of the polls.
Prior to election day, all polling stations in the state were declared ‘sensitive’ or ‘hyper-sensitive’, given the threats by militant outfits and separatist groups. There are over 1,500 polling stations for nearly 12.61 lakh people to exercise their franchise. Polling began at 7 am for the seat, that became vacant after PDP leader Tariq Hameed Karra resigned.
Voting is also underway for ten other assembly constituencies across the country.
(With inputs from PTI)