Srinagar says no reason to vote

Saturday morning a contingent of paramilitary CRPF men stood guard at the entrance of Palladium Cinema from where CRPF personnel usually keep watch on Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

Beside the cinema, three armoured vehicles were stationed at the entry point of Palladium Street that faces the Old Saddar Court complex where people were supposed to vote.

A heavy contingent of government forces personnel stood guard along the closed shops while Lal Chowk, which went for polling in the third phase of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls on Saturday wore a deserted look.
The usual hustle bustle of the City Centre was missing and only a handful of scooterists and light vehicles were seen moving around.

Toward the Sadar court complex where authorities had setup polling station for ward six of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, there was no movement of people.
Two CRPF men peeped from behind the iron gate of the court complex, keeping a check on anyone visiting the building.
As the team of Rising Kashmir arrived at the gate, the CRPF men shouted, “Are you coming to cast vote?”
Coming to know that the team had come to report, the CRPF man smiled and said, “No one came to cast vote here, what will you find after going there?”
The CRPF men were not wrong and the polling staff inside was sitting idle.
Javid, who works as a watch at the court complex, says this was not the first that people stayed away from polling stations.
He said in 2014 assembly polls, only a handful people had turned up to exercise their franchise.
“Today’s scene is entirely different and people aren’t turning up to vote due to many reasons, lack of interest and the prevailing situation,” he said.
Similar scenes were witnessed at many other polling stations in 26 wards spread over Khanyar, Amira Kadal and Eidgah assembly constituencies.
At Maharaj Gunj, polling stations No 2, 6 and 7 were setup in a tin shed inside a public park where CRPF men were seen resting around, enjoying the sunlight.
Locals said ULB polls do not matter and they find no reason to vote.
“We will die, but will never vote,” said a local Abdul Rashid of Maharaj Gunj.
He said people had been witnessing “harassment and killings” on a daily basis in Kashmir and elections had “not put an end to it”.
“There is no reason to vote,” Rashid said while another local chipped in, “Are not those people our sons who have been killed by the government forces’ bullets.”
However, the voting scene was not that grim in sensitive Nowhatta area which remains in news for massive protests every Friday.
A local resident, who did not want to reveal his name, said some people voted as some candidates linked to National Conference (NC) were contesting polls as independents.
He said some people even did not know who the candidates were and majority of the people stayed away from voting because of the ongoing situation in Kashmir.
“People boycott polls because there is no improvement in the situation. People die almost every day and this is not an election but selection,” he said.
javid@risingkashmir.com