Mehbooba's act of unveiling women voters outrageous: Sagar
27 April 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: National Conference (NC) has taken strong exception to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti’s act of forcibly unveiling the Kashmiri Muslim women voters at a polling station in the capital city on Monday. Senior opposition leaders Ali Mohammad Sagar and Mohammad Shafi Uri today condemned it as 'unlimited arrogance' and said that they would complain 'this highhandedness and outrageous act' to the Election Commission of India (ECI). They also sought repoll at 10 polling stations in Srinagar-Budgam, while alleging that senior Ministers of the PDP-led coalition Government had manipulated the democratic exercise at several places. While addressing a news conference here this afternoon, the NC candidate Omar Abdullah’s Chief Polling Agent and a former Minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar, said that the PDP chief, who was herself a woman, had exhibited 'unlimited arrogance of power' on the Kashmiri women voters at the Burn Hall School polling station. Sagar said it was surprising that the ECI and the administration had failed to act in the matter suo moto even as the footage had been repeatedly telecast by a private television news channel. He said that his party would meet the ECI observers today and lodge a formal complaint, seeking action against the PDP president. Sagar asserted that nobody other than the Presiding Officer could take action in the matter of disputed identity of electors. He claimed that the woman whose Burqa had been forcibly removed by Mehbooba and was handed over by her to Police was a geuinine voter. 'Even if we assume that she was a bogus voter, the PDP chief was in no way authorised by law to lift her veil and humiliate her publicly', Sagar added. 'This has been done by a woman leader who claims to be concerned about the honour and dignity of Kashmiri women. This was just a glimpse of the unlimited power arrogance and her highhandedness', observed the NC leader. As regards the official accusation, levelled by Director General of Police Gopal Sharma at a news conference last evening, that the NC leader had been arrested after he resorted to ‘hooliganism’ at a polling station, Sagar said that it was all unfounded. He elaborated that he was followed by SP North Bashir Ahmed Bhat and some other Police officials till he reached the polling station at Koolipora. 'I observed that polling staff were creating hurdles in identification of the voters and they were not entertaining their ration cards. Our arguments fell on deaf ears. Thereupon, some voters shouted slogans. Police swooped on them, roughed them up mercilessly in our presence and took four of them into custody. We objected to it and asked the SP to set them free. Thereupon, SP North said that I too was under arrest. When I desired to know why I was under arrest and whether the Police had sought permission from the Honourable Speaker to arrest an Honourable MLA, SP North said that he had the permission of the authorities', Sagar narrated. Sagar said that after some time, his party president Omar Abdullah reached the spot and asked the SP whether any case had been registered against the Chief Polling Agent. 'SP Bashir told Omar Saheb that I had been detained on precautionery consideration. He told him that no case had been registered. Thereafter he set me free and the four other detainees were also let off after a while', Sagar said. He contradicted DGP’s claim, made at yesterday’s news conference, that he had been released on bail. 'Where’s that bail? Let the DGP show it', Sagar asserted. The NC leader said that he was contemplating to file a defamation suit against the DGP, the PDP President and Doordarshan, which, according to him, had approvingly run the ‘cooked up story’ without trying to seek his version of the events. He strongly refuted the official and the PDP allegation that he had been arrested while conducting 'bogus voters'. 'DGP has claimed that his Police had seized 41 of our mobile voters and four vehicles. Where are those voters? Where are those vehicles?', asked Sagar while dismissing the allegations against him as 'white lies'. Sagar, as well as the former Minister Mohammad Shafi, alleged that a number of the PDP Ministers—including Qazi Mohammad Afzal, Abdur Rehman Veeri and Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen— as also the PDP leader G Q Pardesi had captured a number of polling stations in Ganderbal, Srinagar and Khansaheb. They alleged that polling was rigged at a large scale at these polling stations. The NC leaders, who were also joined by the former Chief Secretary Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, said that they would be meeting the ECI observers later today to demand fresh polling at 10 of the worst violated polling stations. The NC leaders alleged that the ruling party had left no stone unturned to ensure that there was minimum possible turnout in Srinagar city. 'It was a good sign that for the first time a large number of Srinagar voters were coming out to cast the vote. But, when the PDP found them all favouring our party, it resorted to unfair means and spread panic and rumours', added the NC leaders. They claimed that, well in advance, their party had complained to the ECI that the ruling party was posting her favourites and loyal officials in particular segments to rig the polling. 'On April 25, we issued a statement that the PDP had brought in bogus voters and agents from villages to rig the polling and they had been lodged at a number of hotels on the Boulevard. But, unfortunately, there was no action. Nonetheless, our statement exposed the PDP gameplan and they could not do the rigging at a massive scale', Sagar said.