Amid boycott call from separatists and threats from terrorists, polling for first phase of panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir began on Saturday morning under heavy security cover by police and Central armed police forces.
A total of 536 panchayats are going to polls on Saturday in which 5,951 candidates are in the fray for 4,048 panch and 536 sarpanch constituencies together. The elections are being held in the state after nine years as these were last held in 2011 after nearly four decades in the state.
The polling is being held in seven districts across Jammu province followed by six in Kashmir and two in Ladakh. These include Poonch, Rajouri and Kathua, besides Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban and Udhampur (all Jammu provinces), Leh and Kargil (Ladakh), besides Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Srinagar (Kashmir Valley.
In Jammu, the polling started at a brisk note with people standing in queues at many places in border districts of Poonch, Rajouri and Kathua which have been witness to unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistan from time to time in the past. A number of these places fell within the firing range of Pakistan.
The polling was brisk even in Kishtwar and Doda districts where terrorists had killed a senior BJP leader and his brother early this month and Hizbul Mujahideen had circulated threatening posters asking people to stay away from the electoral process, respectively.