Fearful election staff show up for duty after ‘Assurances, Suspension Threats’

Nearly 50 per cent of the polling staff was absconding till Wednesday afternoon in violence-hit Budgam, indicating their fear to be a part of the election process after the violence during bypoll in the Srinagar constituency on April 9.
Officials deputed for the poll duty in Budgam, where repoll at 38 polling stations took place on Thursday, had not reported to their duties. However, after assurance of security and threat of suspension by the government, the officials showed up in the evening.
Imran Nazir, an official, was deployed in the Chadoora area of Budgam for poll duty on Sunday. A night before, Nazir could hear the sound of stones rolling on the rooftop of the school housing the polling station. The sound faded away immediately but he had to spend the whole night with guilt of doing the poll duty.
As the dawn broke, angry youth started lining up near the polling station. “Early morning some youth came to the polling station and asked us to leave, but we resisted,” Nazir said.
With the day growing warmer, the number of angry youth increased and added fuel to the situation. They barged into the polling station and took away the voting machines, he said.
At least 25 EVMs were broken by youth in Chadoora, where violence necessitated the repoll at 16 polling stations.
Eight civilian protesters were killed and over 200 injured in firing by security forces in the Srinagar-Budgam constituency on Sunday.
He left the polling station and took refuge in the Chadoora police station, where from they were shifted to their homes.
Nazir said he was again called for duty on Thursday but refused to attend it. “I was feeling guilty of being part of a process to legitimise civilian killings,” he said.
Another official, Wasim Ahmad, who was posted in Beerwah, said the government was forcing them to risk their lives for conducting elections. “Fortunately, the stone-throwers only broke the EVMs and gave us safe passage,” he said.
Ahmad said the ECI should not have held polls in Kashmir, where peace is fragile. “You can’t kill civilians and then go on to legitimise your activities by holding elections,” he said.
Budgam ADC Anshul Garg said there was some communication gap which led to the delay in reporting of officials for poll duty. “Almost all the officials reported their duties on Wednesday evening,” Garg said.

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