Srinagar: Eight people were killed in firing by security forces as unprecedented election-day violence marred the by-poll for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat on Sunday which saw the voter turnout plunge to an all-time low of 6.5 per cent.
Rampaging mobs took to streets in scores of places across the Lok Sabha constituency straddling Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts, perpetrating wanton violence and arson, even setting ablaze a polling station and attempting to set on fire two others, amid a boycott called by the separatists.
“The tentative voter turnout for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is 6.5 per cent,” Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu told reporters at the conclusion of polling. The seat had recorded 26 per cent polling in the 2014 general elections. The previous lowest turnout in the prestigious seat was 11.93 per cent in 1999 when Omar Abdullah had defeated Mehbooba Mufti in a straight contest.
“There were more than 200 incidents of violence in the constituency, mostly in Budgam district, which included stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks, setting ablaze of a polling station, some vehicles and attempt to burn two other polling stations,” Shantmanu said, adding, “It was not a good day as you know. Lives were lost in these incidents of violence. Seventeen civilians were injured, while over 100 paramilitary and police personnel also sustained injuries.”
The CEO said a decision on repoll in violence-hit areas will be taken after examining the diaries of presiding officers. “I cannot tell you exactly how many polling stations will go to repolls…it can be anywhere between 50 and 100. It is a wild guess,” he said.
While two people each were killed Pakherpora in Chrar-e-Sharief and Beerwah areas of Budgam district, two more deaths were reported from Chadoora area of the same district and another in Magam town, which is known as the gateway to Gulmarg.
Almost 70% of the polling booths in Budgam were abandoned by polling staff due to the spate of protests in several areas, officials said.
National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said in his 20 year political career he had never seen such a bad enviroment for elections. “I am talking about having fought my first election in 1998 at the peak of militancy. Even then the enviroment for campaigning and voting was not as bad as it is today. That may itself tell you just how mismanaged this state is under Mehbooba Mufti,” he said, adding, “Have contested six elections over 20 years and have never seen his kind of violence in elections in Kashmir.”
Separatists have called for a two-day shutdown against the killing of civilians in firing by security forces, saying it was the only way for them to express solidarity with the families of those killed and the cause for which they laid down their lives.