Most polling stations in Kashmir wore a deserted look on the first day of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls on Monday as majority of people in Srinagar and other areas stayed away from voting.
The ULB polls are being held in the State including for Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) after a gap of 13 years.
In the first phase of ULB polls, most polling stations were seen empty.
All four polling stations at Government Boys Higher Secondary School, Humhama which falls in ward 16, were empty and only nine votes had been polled till afternoon.
Ghulam Mohuiddin, a resident of Humhama was sitting outside a closed shop in the locality and chatting with his two friends about poll boycott.
All of them did not cast a vote.
“For what purpose should we cast a vote and why should we do so? We have seen deaths and destruction since 1947,” said Mohuiddin, a businessman by profession.
Pitching for dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir issue, they said people were fed up and had seen a lot of sufferings.
“We want resolution of Kashmir issue which has hardly left anyone unaffected not fake promises in the garb of elections,” they said.
The angry residents said people do not want to listen to fake promises of development.
“What has changed in Srinagar City during the past 20 years?” one of them said.
He said Kashmir’s narrative had been changed over the years.
“Even 7-year-old or 8-year-old children are aware of what is happening in each and corner of the Valley,” he said. “We want freedom and once we get that all these issues would get resolved. These elections are a mere show. Once we are free, our resources will be back and we will prosper.”
At the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT), Rangreth, of the seven polling stations, five – Gogoo, Wovusa, Rangreth, Yayil Rawalpora, and Malik Bagh – saw a low voter turnaround and no vote had been cast at the polling booths till 1 pm.
At Narkara Community Hall in Humhama, four polling stations forward 16 and 17 were set up but no vote was cast till 2 pm.
Most people blamed the failure of successive regimes in reaching out to the people for making people disheartened with the entire election process.
“We were promised many things but none was fulfilled. There has been literally no change on the ground in the past 10 years,” said Mehroosa of Hamdania Colony in Bemina, who was sitting at the veranda of her house but did not even walk out.
“Major projects like smart city and flyover have seen no improvement. These have become victims of politics and nothing else. So why should we vote?” she said.
Nadergund polling station in Humhama was also deserted the entire day as only one vote was polled until 1 pm.
“Only one man turned up to cast vote here. It seems as if people have migrated to some other place,” said a policeman at the polling station.
The four-phased ULB polls began Monday and took place in 820 polling stations in the State.
Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) had announced a shutdown and called for poll boycott.
For three SMC wards – Humhama, Bemina, Baghi Mehtab, 35 polling stations were set up and eight candidates were in the fray.
The counting of votes would take place on October 20.
Meanwhile, In the first phase of voting for the Urban Local Bodies polls on Monday, people in Kashmir complained about not even knowing the contesting candidates.
“Is this an election? We’ve no idea who is contesting polls from here,” a group of elderly men standing outside a polling booth at Government Girls Primary School Watalpora of Humhama ward of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) said sarcastically.
“We have been voting since 1947 but what have we achieved,” the group said. “Those dying are our kith and kin.”
They said ULB polls are a farce to help the “bogey of democracy continue”.
Outside one of the six polling booths of Baghi Mehtab inside a Waterworks shed, Muhammad Yaseen Trali said who he would vote for when he did not even know who was contesting.
“What election is this where candidates are seeking votes while hiding in unknown locations,” Trali said. “SMC did not work in their area even when the municipal body was in place the last time.”
In Humhama ward’s Gogoo area, a group of young boys outside a grocery shop adjacent to a polling booth said, the candidates have not even shown up in the area for campaigning.
“They know they can’t roam around seeking votes. This election is being conducted to bring in RSS here,” the boys said. “We are in solidarity with the rest of our populace.”
The voters at many places in Humhama and Baghi Mehtab wards also were dumbfounded about the location of polling booths in their areas.
A group of men outside a polling booth at Laloo Sheshgari Bagh of Humhama ward of SMC said, “We have election cards but we don’t know where the polling booth has been setup. We won’t vote in these elections any way.”
They said the administration was aware that the candidates had not even conducted tours of the area where from they were contesting.
“The ULB and Panchayat polls are being conducted to aid BJP,” they said. “We are fed up of the same rhetoric on elections since 1950.”
They said no development had taken place after elections and Kashmiris had only suffered.
Abdul Wahab, an elderly man among the group, said, “I caught hold of the Kabailis in 1947 and stopped them but then what did I get in return.”
He said then Sheikh Abdullah was a face who people voted for but now these candidates were contesting polls in hiding.
He said those voting in the ULB polls were not real citizens.
Commenting about the votes being cast in comparatively higher numbers in Hamdania Ward of SMC, the group of men laughed off while sarcastically casting aspersions on the veracity of the entire election process.
“An election which has faceless candidates and hidden polling booths is no election but they will continue like this in all phases,” they said.