BANDIPORE: Thousands braved the winter chill and boycott calls from separatists and turned out to vote in the twin districts of Ganderbal and Bandipore on Tuesday.
Polling started at 8 a.m. amid tight security in 5 constituencies of Ganderbal and Bandipore districts.
Barring stray clashes between workers of National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sonawari, Kangan and Ganderbal constituencies, balloting progressed smoothly.
Polling had to be suspended for few minutes at Tulmula, Gund, Kulan, Ganiwan and Kurhama Ganderbal after workers of NC and PDP clashed over allegations of booth capturing, forcing the authorities to suspend voting.
Activists of both parties tried to manhandle one another in the premises of polling booths while some of them hurled fire pots (kangris) on each other.
Notwithstanding the freezing cold and the fear of the separatists, the voters continued to throng polling stations across the 5 constituencies in Kashmir Valley.
A police official said that the high voter turnout was significant given the boycott call of the separatists and the fear of violence in the region.
People clad in woollens and holding kangris were seen queuing up outside polling stations in Bandipore and Sonawari in the Valley right since the morning.
Separatist leaders, many of them jailed during the run-up to the vote, had asked people in the Kashmir Valley to boycott the polls.
Syed Ali Geelani led Hurriyat Conference had even called for a shutdown in Bandipore and Sonawari against the elections. But adequate security at all polling stations ensured there was no effect of shutdown call.
Dotting every road in the Kashmir valley were armed paramilitary troopers and policemen. All entry points to these five constituencies were under check.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among voters in Kangan and Ganderbal Constituencies as well. I cast my vote early in the morning with a hope that this time a better government gets formed which could address the problems of the people, said Muhammad Ahsan, a resident of Gund Kangan.
Till afternoon, most of the voters who were standing in the queue were mostly women. We want change. We will vote for change, a group of women voters said at Kurhama polling booth.
Another group of voters however added that their vote is not against Hurriyat but for change only. Please dont misunderstand us. We are with freedom struggle while our vote is only for change and to get our daily problems addressed, they added.
Deputy Commissioner Bandipore, Shah Faisal said that it was amazing to see ardent supporters of political parties, braving winter chill standing in queues right from the morning to exercise their franchise. The supporter of a political party even set a fire cracker in air that created panic in a polling station for a while.
The poll process remained peaceful and people enthusiastically voted for their favorite candidates, he added. (CNS)
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