The residents of this village in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir Thursday stayed away from polling booths after pledging to boycott voting at the funeral of a local militant, who was killed in an encounter with security forces earlier this month. Rahil Rashid Sheikh was killed in Imamsahib area of Shopian district on April 6.
Sheikh, a resident of Nuner village of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district – 32 kms from the state’s summer capital Srinagar – was pursuing M Tech from a college in Chandigarh. He joined the militant ranks just three days before the encounter.
The poll authorities had clubbed three polling booths of the village which falls under Kangan assembly segment of Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Stringent security arrangements were also in place to prevent any law and order problem. According to officials, no voter from the registered electorate of 2,568 in the three booths came to cast their votes at any of the booths till 1 pm – the half-way mark of the allotted voting time of 7 am to 6 pm.
The poll staff, tired of waiting for someone to turn up, was seen basking in the sun for most of the time. “No one turned up to vote at any of the polling booths here. We have been waiting for the voters, but no one came here,” an official at the polling station said. He said not even a single polling agent reported at the polling station. “We did not even see any polling agent here. They were also not present in the mock polling that was conducted,” the official said.
Outside the polling station, a few youths said the whole area had “sworn” to boycott the polls in view of Sheikh’s killing. “We used to have some polling here before, but his (militant) funeral shook the whole village and we swore not to vote,” Hilal Ahmad, a resident of the village, told PTI. He said it was the first time that the village had witnessed a total boycott. “We are well past the half-way mark of the voting time, but no vote has been cast and we are sure, there will be no voting today. We are keeping our promise made to the martyr on the day of his funeral,” Ahmad said.
Junaid Nazir, who claimed to be a neighbour of the militant, said the village did not vote as “Sheikh’s blood had not gone cold yet”. “We are yet to come out of the trauma of his killing. How can we vote in such a situation? He laid his life for us and so, we cannot betray him,” he said. The boycott call by Sheikh’s native village also had an impact on nearby villages in Ganderbal as people largely stayed away from the exercise. “I have not seen such less number of votes cast in these polling stations,” Hamid-ul-lah, a resident of nearby Serch village, said.
Election authorities said the state witnessed a polling percentage of 29.6 per cent till 1 pm. In Kashmir Valley’s Srinagar constituency spread over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal, the polling percentage was 4.8 per cent, 11.4 per cent and 11.0 per cent, respectively till 1 pm, they said.