People Of Jammu & Kashmir Give Befitting Reply To Stone-pelters13 April 2011
The Economic Times
Srinagar: The people of Jammu and Kashmir rejected a poll boycott by Hurriyat hardliners with the majority of them voting in the first phase of panchayat polls, being held on non-party basis. Voters converged at stations when polling began at 8 am. A good turnout was reported from Kupwara, Kangan, Qaimoh and other hamlets of Budgam block in Kashmir, besides three blocks in the Jammu province. Long lines were seen outside stations in the morning. While most separatists ignored the exercise, Syed Ali Geelani did repeatedly call for boycotting the exercise. Aftab Ahmad of Wusan village said usually they took their local problems to the MLA who was sometimes not reachable. 'Now we will have locals who represent us and they will deliver on that front,' he said. In the 2008 assembly polls, more than 62% voted despite a separatists boycott call. The first phase of the panchayat polls being held in 16 phases comes months after stone-pelting mobs disturbed the peace in the state. Though panchayat's are an old institution in J&K, there have not been many elections. Last elections to the rural local bodies were held in 2000, but Chief Minister Omar Abdullah believes 'in reality this is first panchayat election after 33 years because the polls in 2000 was only on paper. More than half the seats remained empty.' There are more than 2,800 candidates in the fray for the first phase. The state government has managed security of the polls with existing police and paramilitary battalions. Most security-men moved to the respective belts on the eve of polling. Results of the particular segments will be declared after the elections of a particular phase are completed. The polls are being held using EVMs. High number of candidates, on the 2008 pattern, has generated a lot of interest in the local population. In certain belts in Kupwara and Kangan, participants actually led prolonged campaigns.