Electors Vote To ‘Protect’ Special Status, End Bloodshed  

KUPWARA — Most voters on Thursday said they are voting to save the special status of state in Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution. 

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to revoke the legislation as well as Article 35A, which empowers the state legislature to define “permanent residents”.

“The prime issue concerning us this time is the threat faced by Articles 370 and 35A,” said Bashir Ahmad of Kupwara

A large number of people stayed away from polling booths in AMU scholar-turned-militant Manan Wani’s village and most of those who cast vote said they voted for change to “end bloodshed.”  

There were four polling booths set up in the Tikipora village and the one (booth no. 10) where Manan’s family was among listed voters saw lowest turnout of 12.30% with 96 out of 780 electors turning to cast their vote. 

The other polling booths—(booth no. 9) recorded 342 votes out of 1164, (booth no. 11)—317 out of 880, (booth no. 12)—151 out of 668votes.  

In all, out of 3400 voters, 906 of them cast the vote, recording a poll percentage of 26.64%. 

“We want change. I’m 70 year old. The boycott did not yield anything. We want to send somebody to represent us who will alleviate our sufferings and help end bloodshed,” said Sanaullah Ganie.  “We need development also. We belong to far-flung areas and there is need for development which would be ensured by better representative.” 

Abdul Samad, another resident of the Tekipora said the main reason for him to cast vote “for a person who will ensure end to bloodbath.”

Manan, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in encounter with government forces his in Kupwara district in October last year. 

The villagers of Saver village of Khurhama in Lolab, who boycotted the Panchayat elections last year, turned up in good numbers to cast their vote.

“We want change and main reason for us to cast vote is to protect Articles 370 and 35A” a youth, flanked by others, said.   

“There are some parties who have malicious intentions. They want to sell Kashmiris but it is our responsibility to stop those forces and choose the right candidate who will save the Kashmiri identity,” he added.

Sopore Sees Marginal Increase In Voting 

The apple town of Sopore with a reputation of remaining indifferent to electoral politics saw a slight improvement in turnout during polling for Baramulla Lok Sabha seat Thursday but Dooru, the native village of Syed Ali Geelani stayed away from the polls.

4.3 per cent of the over one lakh eligible voters exercised their franchise at polling stations in Sopore assembly segment, which is part of Baramulla Lok Sabha seat in north Kashmir, officials said.

They said the voter turnout for Sopore in 2014 Lok Sabha polls was mere 1.08 per cent.

Since the eruption of militancy in Kashmir in 1990, Sopore town has seen low voter turnout in the elections. However, in 2014 Assembly polls, the voters had elected Congress candidate Haji Abdul Rashid Dar to the state assembly and the voter turnout was 30 per cent — the highest since turn of the millennium.

Those who exercised their franchise were willing to give many reasons but without revealing their identity.

“Our existence is under threat … we cannot leave the field open for the BJP and its proxies in Kashmir. This is the main reason why I decided to vote,” said a middle-aged man outside a polling station in this town.

In 2002 elections, the turnout in the assembly elections was 8.09 per cent.

The poll percentage took a giant leap in 2008 assembly elections as nearly 20 per cent voters exercised their franchise, notwithstanding the fact that the polls were held immediately after the Amarnath land row.

In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the poll percentage dropped to around 15 per cent. However, the biggest drop in voter turn out was witnessed in 2014 Lok Sabha polls as only 1.08 per cent voters came out to cast their votes. One of the main reasons attributed to this drastic dip was execution of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru in 2013.

Other than Guru, Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat hail from Sopore town. In fact, Geelani has represented Sopore in the state assembly three times — 1972, 1977 and 1987 — before the eruption of militancy.

The Duroo village, the native village of Geelani boycotted the polls today and the three polling booths in the area failed to open vote account.

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