Srinagar, April 9
We least eight civilians were killed and scores injured in firing by security forces as mobs tried to attack some polling stations in Srinagar parliamentary constituency that on Sunday recorded a poor seven per cent voting in a by-poll — the lowest in the state in three decades, officials said.
The by-poll to the Lok Sabha constituency — spread across three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal — was marred by widespread violence with police claiming that nearly 200 incidents of violent protests took place in central Kashmir.
As the day began with small queues of voters outside polling booths, slogan shouting mobs attacked polling stations in Budgam, damaged EVMs and prevented voters from exercising their franchise.
Security forces tried to disperse the crowds with warning shots initially and opened fire at them when they didn’t relent, a police officer said.
Seven persons were killed at three places of Budgam district and one in Ganderbal, where protestors clashed with security forces.
“The security forces opened fire to protect the polling staff,” the officer said, alleging that mobs tried to storm many polling stations and destroy EVMs.
The seven per cent voter turnout is the lowest in 27 years in the state. The constituency had in the 2014 general elections recorded 26 per cent turn out.
The by-poll was the first after the 2016 unrest, triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July last. Over 100 people were killed in five months of the unrest — the worst in six years of the troubled valley.
“It was an unfortunate day. Over 100 security personnel were injured. The turnout was 7.09 per cent,” Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu told media persons.
He also said that re-polling will be held at 100 polling stations that witnessed early closure due to violence.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it was the worst poll-related violence he had seen in his 20 years of political career.
“Have contested six elections over 20 years and have never seen this level of violence in elections in Kashmir,” Abdullah tweeted.
Abdullah hit out at the state government over the violence and accused Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of failing to provide a conducive atmosphere for voting.
“Mehbooba Mufti is responsible for this situation. There is mismanagement,” he said.
Security was stepped up after separatists extended shutdown call till April 12 — election day in south Kashmir, the authorities also decided to suspend the internet services and postphoned the university examinations scheduled.
The stakes were high for opposition National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s Nazir Ahmed Khan who were the main contestants in the constituency. In all, nine candidates were in the fray.
The seat fell vacant after then PDP leader Tariq Hameed Karra resigned to protest alleged atrocities on people during the 2016 agitation.