Monday, November 24, 2008

Election perspective

Town Obliges Freedom Camp
Goes for boycott

Ganderbal, Nov 24: If Sonawari and Bandipora had obliged the vote-seekers and let the freedom camp down, Ganderbal on Sunday did a more balancing act. While the main town and some villages remained away from polling booths in response to the call by separatists, the peripheries mostly witnessed brisk polling. Many villages stood starkly divided on the issue as voting and anti-election protests could be seen going on simultaneously.
The division was clear in Kurhama. Hundreds of youth, children and women greeted the press with pro-freedom and anti-election slogans. Barely 50 meters away, the mood was different. About 200 people had cast their vote and many were in the queue. The locals said the polling booth was attacked by anti-election protesters after police and CRPF troops barged into houses and beat up the inmates, including women. An election agent said the disruption in polling was caused by fasadis (hooligans). An angry youth outside the poling booth said only the gaddars (traitors) were voting ‘bringing the whole village a bad name.’ On our return from the village, a kid, barely eight, was re-arranging election-boycott posters torn down by the police earlier.
In Baroosa village, dozens of people were waiting in a queue to vote. At another end of the village, policemen severely thrashed anti-election protesters, including women. The protesters were angered by the police action and resorted to massive stone-pelting.
In Lar, voters in hundreds were waiting outside the polling booths. Till 3 pm, 546 votes were polled out of 1011 at 67-A Lar. Outside, enthusiastic voters had apprehensions that they would not get the chance to cast their vote by 4 pm.
Ganderbal town was fortified. Heavy contingent of paramilitary troops were guarding the polling booths and the streets. Outside the polling booths, people were keenly watching those who would enter the polling booths to cast their votes. They too were being watched by paramilitary troops.
The presiding officer at Behama 4-A polling booth said only 16 votes had been polled out of 658 at 10:30 am. In the neighbouring polling booth the situation was not different. Only 13 votes had been polled out of 663. The polling agents were very perturbed over the low turnout. Peer Manoosh, the NC polling agent was angry. He said police on Friday used force against people in the town and that has caused resentment among people. At 2 pm in Behama 4-A the number had reached to 30 including the votes of 12 agents.
Bamloora village recorded more than 50 per cent voting till 2 pm. The village wore a festive look and all, including youth, were debating the outcome of elections.
In the outskirts of Ganderbal town at Behama, people came out shouting pro-freedom and anti-PDP and anti-NC slogans. They accused police of using force against them and dragging them out from their houses. “Even women have been dragged out by police,” accused the slogan-shouting crowd.
In Dudharma, large number of people were discussing politics and the boycott call.

They were accused the press of being biased and said some parties were using money to buy voters. “But you won’t write,” said an aged person. A young man said that people in the town were for boycott. Till 1 pm, 117 votes had been polled out of 1174.
At Gangerhom, people alleged that an Army officer of 5 RR camp asked them to vote. They said the officer told them that voting would bring development in the area.
In Kachan, a Sumo driver, Muhammad Younis Dar, was bringing voters to the polling station. “I have been provided Rs 1000 and fuel charges,” Younis said. Omar Abdullah and Qazi Muhammad Afzal visited the polling booth. People waved to greet the contesting leaders. Till 11:30 am, 201 votes had been polled out of 758 at the booth. There were long queues outside the booth. “I would cast my vote for the candidate who would bring employment to our children,” said an aged women.
In Baderkund, 330 votes had been polled out of 638 till 3 pm. At B-48 polling booth in Dab, 327 persons had voted out of 1141 electors till 1:30.
The PDP candidate and the former minister, Qazi Muhammad Afzal, was candid in his reaction to the boycott in Ganderbal town. “They have not voted in Sheikh Abdullah’s time too,” he said, adding that he was expecting boycott in the town.
Qazi accused the NC of using money to purchase votes. “I have conveyed to the Election Commission that it should inquire what NC leaders Ali Muhammad Sagar and Nasir Sogami were doing in the town,” he said. He accused the former chief secretary, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, of buying the voters for NC.
The NC president, Omar Abdullah, denied the charges. He said on Saturday Sheikh Ghulam Rasool had invited some people for dinner including Ali Muhammad Sagar. “But when we heard that it is against the Election Commission guidelines, we called them back,” he said.
Omer acknowledged that there was less voting in the town. He said it was unfortunate but expected.
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