Tense Pulwama, Shopian Going To Polls In Massive Security Deployment

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SRINAGAR: On the eve of the last phase of the Lok Sabha polling involving the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama, the entire region is under a thick security blanket. Members of army, police and the paramilitary forces are deployed in the length and breadth of the two districts and the exercise seemingly is a major security exercise.

The access to the region is highly regulated. The police have parked a couple of vehicle near the EDI at Pampore and they are diverting all the traffic towards the Balhama road. They are, however, permitting the traffic from the south Kashmir to get into Srinagar.

Picture for representation

“There were almost 200 vehicles waiting for using the Pampore stretch but they were denied permission,” a commuter, a resident of Pampore said. “We finally took the Balhama road and somehow reached home.”

Residents said the security blanket has enforced a new calmness in the region though the twin districts were edgy for a long time, especially after the three militants were killed in Imam Sahab belt. The slain trio included the last surviving member of the Burhan Wani’s most used photo frame. Their fourth day falls on May 6, the day of the polling. Incidentally, May 6, is the first death anniversary of the killing of Saddam Padder and Dr Rafi, who were killed in the same belt. That day, five civilians were killed in the clashes following the encounter.

“We do not know what is happing around because we are under an Internet shut down for a long time,” one resident, who lives in Pulwama said. “The traffic was moving normally but it started thinning in the afternoon. By the dusk, most of the main roads were deserted.”

Political activists said the authorities have clubbed a number of polling stations in various belts and the voters will have to cover good distances to reach the stations if they wish to participate. The political stations for the major villages have been set up in smaller villages around them. The wisdom behind all this is to ensure that the polling stations have moderate and manageable crowds around. In this situation, even the people willing to exercise their right, may avoid covering long distances to cast their votes.

The polling stations have been chosen at places, which are slightly away from the populations. This has also been done on security reasons.

The administration in the two districts spent the day dispatching the polling staff to the respective places. Almost 1900 polling personnel were dispatched to 450 spots in Pulwama district. Dr Syed Abid Shah said 17 Zonal and 47 Sector Magistrates were also appointed. In Shopian district, a total of 245 polling parties have also been despatched. Shopian district has only two assembly segments – Shopian and Wachi, unlike Pulwama that has four – Tral, Pampore, Rajpora and Pulwama.

As the authorities were despatching the polling staff, there were instances on stone pelting at various places. Official sources said the stone pelting took place in Bongam, Old Bus Stand, Meemander and Zawoora in Shopian. At a few places, the police had to use tear smoke to chase away the mobs.

It was because of these incidents that the administration flew two sorties of a chopper from Shopian to Zainpora. Officials said in one sortie they flew 34 poling staffers and in another sortie, another batch of 15 poll staffers were flown from the DPL. They all were carrying the EVMs as rest of the staff was sent by road. These staffers were received by the Zainpora police station that later helped them reach their places of day-long posting. Some of the poll staff was driven out of DPL into the armoured vehicles, reports from Shopian said.

The area is calm and tense. Officials said they have made adequate arrangements for the polling staff.

The two districts have 522530 electors who are expected to exercise their right to vote on Monday. They have to report to 695 polling stations to elect their representative for the Lok Sabha in a contest that is widely being seen as a triangular one between PDP, Congress and the NC.

With the Monday exercise, the Lok Sabha polls in the Jammu and Kashmir will conclude. Though four of the six berths in the state went to polls in the first phase, it was south Kashmir Anantnag seat that was divided into three areas for staggered polling.

Interestingly, the polling concludes on the first day of the opening of the durbar offices in Srinagar and on the eve of the beginning of the Muslim month of fasting.

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