In Budgam segments, people side with boycott ‘In memory of martyrs’

As the news about two killings in Charar-i-Sharief area spread in area by late afternoon, more people including women and young girls came out to protest.

At Aripanthan in Beerwah area of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, the polling staff sat in one of the corners of a room, anxiously waiting for voters to turn up. The polling time had started at 7 in the morning but by 12 pm none of the total 938 votes had been cast.
“The situation is same everywhere in the area. We just want the polling time to end so that we can leave for homes,” said a polling staff member.
Aripanthan remained in the news during the last year’s anti-India uprising when forces shot dead four youth from the village. “How can we forget our sons and come out to vote? We can’t sell the blood of our martyrs,” said an elderly Abdur Razaaq, who was joined by a group of over 50 youth. At the polling booth, none of the mainstream parties contesting the election was represented by polling agents. “This is unusual. I have never seen it in the past,” said the Presiding Officer there. “It is a complete boycott here.”
The scene at the polling booth replicated itself at majority of booths in the area on the day the Srinagar-Budgam constituency, which went to polls, witnessed almost complete boycott and was marked with killings and clashes between civilians and forces.
At Kanhama, people including women had come out on roads to stage anti-election protests. A bridge over Sukhnag Nallah had divided the protesting youth and forces who were trying to push the former back. “Don’t give up; they can’t dare to cross the bridge,” a youth shouted as forces fired teargas canisters and resorted to aerial firing to disperse the protesters. But they failed.
“Look what they did to us,” an elderly man pointed towards the broken windows of his house, located on the bank of the Nallah. “They (forces) barged into our house, broke windowpanes and threw household items into the river.” “But we won’t give up. We have decided to boycott polls,” he said. At the polling station in the area, of total 957 votes registered, just two had been polled.
As the news about two killings in Charar-i-Sharief area spread in area by late afternoon, more people including women and young girls came out to protest.
The protests were more intense in main Beerwah town, the constituency represented by former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah. Owing to intense stone-pelting, the two polling stations had been closed and shifted to Boys Higher Secondary School. Outside, the youth had engaged the forces in intense stone-pelting though the forces tried to break the protests with aerial firing and teargas shelling.
In Soibug, the native village of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahudin, there was complete boycott as youth took control of several polling stations and forced the staff as well paramilitary forces deployed for election duty to vacate the polling booths.
“As the polling time started, youth barged into polling stations and asked the polling staff to wind up and leave,” the local residents said.
Later, youth fought pitched battles with police and paramilitary forces. As the clashes intensified, forces, according to locals, surrendered the centers and took off the deployment.
Earlier, during clashes, J&K policemen and paramilitary forces resorted to teargas shelling and used pellet guns, injuring over a dozen youth in Soibug. “We received over 20 youth with pellet injuries. Three were beaten by forces. Two youth had pellet injuries in their eyes,” officials at Sub District Hospital Soibug said.
The village has total 1195 votes but it witnessed a complete boycott, according to locals. “The buildings where authorities had set up polling stations were vacated in the morning hours,” a group of youth said.
Next to Soibug, youth in Check Hattaran entered the polling stations and damaged Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) where some votes were cast. “We damaged EVMs after we heard that three votes were cast in a polling station,” a group of youth said. The youth had blocked roads in the area and were raising pro-freedom slogans.
The situation in Naslapora village of Budgam district was on the edge as youth attacked CRPF personnel deployed at the local polling station soon after the polling began. The area was on the boil since yesterday after deployment of paramilitary forces. “Soon after the CRPF personnel entered the polling station this morning, the youth pelted stones at it, forcing them to vacate the building,” the locals said.
The youth, according to witnesses, took EVMs out of the polling stations and broke these outside. The area witnessed massive clashes between youth and paramilitary forces wherein around five youth, according to locals, sustained bullet injuries. The situation in Choon village was no different. In Chadoora, which witnessed two civilian killing recently by forces, the roads wore a deserted look as people completely boycotted the elections. At many places in the area, youth clashed with forces at many polling stations and forced the polling staff to close the booths. But Budgam town witnessed brisk polling throughout the day. Three polling stations were set-up in BDO office Budgam where youth were seen in queues and casting their votes. While other areas witnessed boycott, locals from main town Budgam justified voting, saying their vote was “against BJP”. “For us PDP is synonym to BJP. So we are casting our votes against BJP,” the locals said.

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