Less Coercion In Towns, More In Villages: CCS
12 May 2004
The Times of India
Srinagar: Coalition of Civil Societies (CCS), a non governmental organisation, today said there was no coercion in Doda city and Baderwah town but in Banihal and other far-off villages in the district a number of complaints were received. The CCS had constituted two teams to monitor polls in Doda on May 10 which visited 35 polling booths in Doda, Bhaderwah and Banihal areas. The interim report finalised by the CCS said there was substantial amount of militant violence during and ahead of the polls which 'affected polling process'. Of the 13 booths visited in Doda city, Bhaderwah town and villages of Ghat area, it said, polling was dull in 10 booths. In others it was brisk. The report said people admitted the fear of militant gun 'but a substantive number said they would have even otherwise boycotted'. 'The common reason cited was that elections under Indian constitution is irrelevant', it said. The shutdown call by Hurriyat and other pro-independence groups evoked 'tremendous response'. 'All shops remained closed and streets presented a deserted look', the report said. The CCS has disputed the official figures of 38 percent and said the voting pattern was uneven. 'Due to hIlly terrain, access to villages was difficult but we reliably learnt that voting was zero in quite a few villages like Shiva, Chakka and Baboora', it said. In Banihal town, the report said, the freedom sentiment was visible and the mood was of voluntary boycott. Several people complained about coercion by 17 RR, it said. In Tethaar village of Banihal , the CCS team found three youths who were being forced to vote but their name was missing in voters list. In Khari village, the team noticed, that army men were herding people to booths. 'Our silence tells everything', the team quoted a 75 year old bearded man at Arpichilan. The team however saw voluntary voters at Bhorner, Nagam, Doligam, Gund Adalkote, Kaskoot, Nowgam and NAC Banihal. 'At the end the CCS reiterates that coercion by armed forces or acts of violence by militants are not conducive to the free expression of people's will', the interim report concludes.