Huge Turnout In Militancy Hubs, 20 Injured As Supporters Clash25 May 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Hubs of the militancy-Surankote and Bafliaz in Poonch district and Marmat in Doda-recorded over 80 per cent turnout as 11 phases out of a total of 16 were completed in the Panchayat elections today. Over 20 persons were injured as supporters of the contestants clashed on trivial issues in Surankote, Ramsu and Marmat blocks during the polling. At Dangarpora, Sopore in Zaingeer block of Baramulla district, National Conference MLA from Sopore, Mohammad Ashraf Ganaie was targeted by some youth when he was heading towards a polling booth to cast his vote. Polling was disrupted for sometime in the area but police and CRPF personnel acted swiftly and arrested the stone pelters. In the 11th phase of elections in which 10 blocks of nine districts went to the polls (six blocks of Jammu region and four from Kashmir), 70.6 per cent electorates exercised their right to franchise. Highest turnout of 86.4 per cent was recovered in Bhalwal block of Jammu district while lowest polling percentage of 11 phases so far was today recorded in Zaingeer block of Baramulla district (28.8 per cent). Voting percentage in other blocks included Bandipora (71), Pulwama (52), Qazigund, Anantnag (82), Drabshalla, Kishtwar (76), Marmat, Doda (84.4), Ramsoo, Ramban (74.2), Surankote, Poonch (82) and Bafliaz, Poonch (81.5). Election for 317 posts of Sarpanches and 1786 posts of Panches was held today. The polling was initially scheduled for 343 Sarpanch and 2515 Panch constituencies. However, 26 Sarpanches and 729 Panches had already been elected unopposed, official sources said. A total of 1184 candidates were in fray for Sarpanch and 3851 for Panch segments. Majority of results had been declared till late tonight. Some of the results would be declared by tomorrow morning leading to culmination of election process for 11th phase, sources said. Out of a total of 4.43 lakh voters, 3.13 lakh exercised their right to vote today in 10 blocks. Re-poll was today also held at Bhagwana Chack in Khour block of Jammu district in which 84.3 per cent people cast votes. Supporters of Sarpanch candidate Tufail Hussain, having affiliation to Congress, clashed with their rivals after Choudhary Mumtaz Ahmed, Zonal Education Officer (ZEO) posted at Nangali Sahib, cast his vote at Upper Hari, Surankote in polling station Government Middle School, Safeda. Polling in Ward Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 was suspended at 8.10 am when the supporters of two Sarpanches started a clash over voting by the ZEO. The Returning Officer ruled that since Ahmed hailed from village Safeda and his name figured in the voting list, he had a right to vote. About a dozen persons were injured in the clash. SSP Poonch Ashkoor Wani and other senior police and civil officials, who were camping at the spot, spoke to the warring groups. Polling resumed in all Wards at 11.40 am and continued uninterruptedly till all people in queue cast their votes. At Sarbagni-A polling station in Ramsoo block of Ramban district, supporters of two Sarpanch candidates-Mohammad Haneef and Mohammad Khaleel-clashed when some of them pointed out that other people had cast votes of six dead persons through proxy. Polling was suspended in Sarbagni-A polling station including Ward Nos. 5 and 6 at 11 am. Sources said the persons, who had cast votes appeared before the Assistant Returning Officer, saying they were alive and not dead. This didnít pacify the warring groups, who pelted stones at each other causing injuries to eight persons including a police constable. Senior police officers including SP Ramban Anil Magotra reached the spot. Polling finally resumed at 12.50 pm under tight security arrangements. At Mangota-B polling station for Ward No. 2 in Marmat block of Doda district, polling was suspended at 9.30 am when a Sarpanch contestant Abdul Rashid Bhat alleged that the people, who had migrated from Mangota to Bisht in Chenani, were casting their votes. After verifications, authorities allowed voting at 10.45 am. A Sarpanch candidate from Karol-B Panchayat Halqa of Drabshalla block in Kishtwar district, Irshad Ahmed boycotted polling and marched to Kishtwar along with his 70 to 80 supporters alleging that Inderwal MLA and Congress leader Ghulam Mohammad Sarooriís brother, Shaffi Saroori, contesting from the same Panchayat was harassing the voters to cast their votes in his favour. The protesters said even Ghulam Mohammad Saroori had campaigned for his brother though the elections are being held on non-party basis. ARO for the Panchayat, Riaz Ahmed said they asked Irshad Ahmed to depute his agents at the polling booth but he refused to do so. Irshad demanded a re-poll in the area after protection for him. Ghulam Mohammad Saroori has denied the allegations leveled against him by Riaz Ahmed. In Bhalwal block of Jammu district, large queues of voters including women and youngsters were witnessed right from 7 am today when the voting started. At most of the places, the people had to wait for one to two hours to exercise their right to franchise. However, the wait for a couple of hours didnít deter the voters from casting their votes. Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma and SSP Jammu Basant Rath toured various areas of Bhalwal block where polling passed off peacefully. People in Bhalwal, Gharota, Raipur, Aghor, Keran, Jandial, Kot and Seri Panditan Panchayats said they were voting the candidates of their caste. At Keran Panditan, a Sarpanch candidate, Parshotam Lal claimed that names of his supporters had been deliberately deleted from the voting list. Some women of the Panchayat showed their Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) but said their names didnít figure in the voters list. Sources said a huge turnout of 82 and 81.5 per cent in Surankote and Bafliaz blocks of Poonch and 84.4 per cent in Marmat block of Doda, the hubs of militancy, clearly demonstrated the disenchantment of the local people against militancy. During past few days, two top Lashkar commanders including Abu Huzefa have been killed at Bafliaz Surankote and one in Dera Ki Gali. Sources said the people voted fearlessly. Authorities had made tight security arrangements in all sensitive areas of the two districts. No militancy related incident was reported from any of 10 blocks today. In Bhalwal block of Jammu district, 53,199 people cast their votes from a total of 61,537. In Surankote and Bafliaz blocks of Poonch 43,152-52,624 and 23,875-29,294 electorates used their voting rights. In Ramsoo block of Ramban, 36,971 people voted from a total of 49,808 while in Marmat block of Doda, 14,780 electorates used their right to franchise from 17,506. In Drabshalla block of Kishtwar, 19511 votes were polled from 25,672. In Zaingeer block of Baramulla, 13,453 people turned up for polling from a total of 46,710 while in Bandipora block, 44,791 people voted from 63,086. In Pulwama block, 28,308 people used their voting right from 54,438 while in Qazigund block of Anantnag, 35,256 votes were polled from 42,995. A total of 26 Sarpanches had been elected unopposed including 11 in Pulwama and three each at Zaingeer, Surankote and Bafliaz and two each at Bandipora and Bhalwal. Out of 729 Panches elected unopposed, 104 had been elected at Zaingeer, 90 at Bandipora, 126 at Pulwama, 50 at Qazigund, 71 in Drabshalla, 34 in Marmat, 65 in Ramsoo, 48 in Bhalwal, 104 in Surankote and 72 in Bafliaz. Our Srinagar correspondent adds: Reports from Sopore said that trouble erupted in Dangarpora area when MLA Sopore, Mohammad Ashraf Ganie was targeted by four youth with stones while he was heading towards a polling booth to cast his vote as the area comes under Zainageer block where the polling was taken up today. The stone pelting on the MLA disrupted the poll proceedings for some time in this area. However, the police and CRPF personnel present there acted swiftly and arrested the stone pelters leading to resumption of polling. The situation remained peaceful thereafter and no further reports of stone pelting were reported. Reports from other villages of Zainageer block said that the polling was moderate in most of the villages and in others it was dismal. There were reports of complete poll boycott in Dooru village, native place of Hurriyat hardliner, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. It is learnt that nobody had stood up for elections from this village and no vote was cast there. There are 55 villages in Zainageer block consisting of 38 panchayat blocks and 350 candidates were in fray. Those who came out to vote said Sopore area as a whole needs to be developed so that its glory is restored. They hoped that Sarpanches and Panches of Zainageer block would do their bit in taking the block to progress and development. 'Sopore area has been neglected as there is a general notion that only stone pelters live here. We have seen worst situation over the past two decades and have suffered as well. When it comes to development no area should be discriminated and same should apply for the Zainageer block as well,' said a group of voters. Reports from Bandipora said that people in large numbers came out and thronged the polling booths in order to exercise their franchise. They wanted to play their part in the progress of their block so that development is attained. 'We want Bandipora to come up as a model district in the State and for the same it is imperative that Sarpanch along with Panches are literate. I am going to vote for such a candidate and hopefully he turns out to be winner. Otherwise, the dreams of seeing a developed Bandipora would not be realized,' said Mohammad Subhan, a voter. Reports from Pulwama and Qazigund blocks of Pulwama and Anantnag districts also speak of very good voter turnout for the Panchayat elections. People jostled with each other at these blocks in order to take a lead while exercising their franchise.