Indian Elections in Jammu & Kashmir
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PDP demands re-poll

Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by former union Home
minister Mufti Mohammad Syed has demanded re-poll in 30 polling booths
of Srinagar parliamentary constituency which, the party claimed, had
been captured by ruling National Conference (NC) leaders.
Polling booths were captured by Rural Development minister A R Rather
in Charar-e-Sharif, MLAs Muhammad Shafi Bhat and Mubarik Gul in
Srinagar and also by the agents of Works minister Mohiuddin Shah, PDP
leader G Q Pardesi claimed here, Sunday. Pardesi alleged that eight
booths were captured by Rather while Bhat was involved in Wazir Bagh and
Rajbagh areas of the uptown Srinagar. Letters demanding re-poll in 30
booths have been faxed to the Chief Election Commissioner, M S Gill, and
the state chief electoral officer, PDP leader told reporters here.
Pardesi alleged Mahraj Gunj station house officer, Mir Hussain,
captured polling booth at Mahraj Gunj and Kalashpora for the NC. Booth
capturing was also reported from Shamaswari, he added.

The Kashmir Times (Jammu) 6, September 1999
NC sets new record in rigging poll
Large-scale bogus voting in Srinagar
Tremendous response to boycott call
Voters stay indoors with total bandh
NC ministers, MLAs carry bogus voters in official cars
EC observers disappear, officials act as NC agents.


KT NEWS SERVICE
SRINAGAR, Sep 5: Taking full advantage of the poll boycott, the ruling
National Conference managed to cast large number of bogus votes not only
in this city but in other parts of Srinagar- Budgam Lok Sabha
constituency as well.

The ruling party legislators and ministers had to rely on their bogus
voters, most of whom were not even from Srinagar constituency, to make
the son of their boss victorious. Some burqa clad women also formed part
of the ruling party's force. They enjoyed the day as they travelled in
Sumos, Gypsies and mini buses from one polling station to the other and
cast as much votes as possible. The absence of the agents of rival
candidates in most of the polling booths made their jobs easier. At some
places, where the agents were present they could not show any
resistance.

While at some polling stations, the polling staff showed some
resistance, but their voice was silenced with muscle power. Like a
polling booth at Googjibagh, the polling officials were beaten. The
polling and police officials admitted that bogus votes were cast, but
expressed their helplessness in stopping the practice.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders and activities had clashes
with the bogus voters being led by National Conference leaders at a
number of places. PDP caught red handed a number of NC leaders including
Mohammad Shafi Bhat guiding bogus voters . At Khalsa school polling
booth PDP candidate Mehbooba Mufti strongly objected to bogus voting by
NC men. Shafi Bhat had heated exchanges with PDP leaders. She also had
heated arguments with a NC legislator at SP College polling booth as the
latter had brought bogus voters in minibuses. The PDP caught hold of
some bogus voters of NC at Kothibagh amid a pitched battle.

At polling booth No 24, Sarai Bala (A) falling in the Amira Kadal
assembly segement, a person was caught red handed when he tried to cast
a bogus vote. Identified as Mohammad Jabbar Sheikh, working as Mashkie
in Srinagar Muncipality resident of Isso, Shangus in district Anantnag,
he tried to cast bogus vote of Abdul Qayoom, son of Ghulam Qadir, voter
list number 48. He alongwith other bogus voters was brought to polling
booth by National Conference MLA Amira Kadal, Mohammad Shafi Bhat in a
police Gypsy.

At the DAV institute at Jawaharnagar a girl cast bogus vote at the
polling booth No 26 Jawahar Nagar (C). She also cast other bogus vote in
the neighbouring booth. But on the third time her attempt was thwarted
by the polling staff of the third polling station when she asked the
staff that it was her maiden attempt to cast the vote. She told the
polling staff that her name was Zahida daughter of Ghulam Mohammad
Parvez. The polling staff said even as they managed to stop the girl
from casting the bogus vote, they were unable to do so in other similar
cases.

At Batakadal no vote was polled till 3 PM. But a team of bogus voters
travelling in the vehicles of forest department and state motor garares
and led by local MLA Sadiq Ali's son appeared on the scene. They cast
120 votes.

Simlarly, at polling booths set up in Tyndle Biscoe school, people were
brought in coaches without number plate for casting bogus votes. In high
profile Sonawar constituency, people were being lured with money to cast
the votes. NC workers were openly asking people at Bonamsar, Munshi Bagh
and other areas of Sonawar to cast the votes at the rate Rs 10 per vote.

At Raj Bagh people including veiled women were imported for bogus
voting. At Islamia school, Kursoo, a woman was provided a Burqa for
concealing her identity. Later, she cast another bogus vote without a
veil. Even the ink remover was kept available outside the polling booths
by NC men at Kursoo, Raj Bagh.

A police official at the polling booth said it was very difficult for
them to identify a voter particualry a woman. "Under the cover of Burqa
she is casting number of votes. They are using sophisticated techniques
to remove the ink mark which further compounds the problem", he said.

Reports from old city revealed that police was escorting the vehicles of
bogus voters in down town city and the voting was being done in
connivance with the police and Special police officers. NC MLA of EId
Gah constituency Mubark Gul was seen roaming with the bogus voters. At
some places people resorted to hooting when the police and bogus voters
passed by. But that did not evoke much curiosity among the people.

NC had pressed daily wagers into service and at number of places,
government employees were acting as NC agents. At booth No 8 at Shalla
Kadal, Showkat Ahmad, a daily wager in rural developed department at
Pampore was acting as NC agent.. He was allegedly promised
regularisation of job by NC MLA if he acted as polling agent for the
party.

Election commission observers were conspicuous by their absence and till
11 O clock, no observer had visited any of the centers in Srinagar city.

The bogus voters in mobile vehicle were seen casting votes at
Baranpather 65 A and 66 B.Only a few voters had turned up at the booths
in the first four hours. But only within an hour the number swelled to
111 and 185 at the two booths. The vehicle left for SDA building,
Batamalloo where it polled 17 votes. Interstingly, the roads in the area
were deserted with hardly any movement of the locals.

In Khanyar assembly segment, the mobile team was led by one Farooq
Mattoo, ex - personal assistant of Irrigation minister Ali Mohammad
Sagar. He was accompanied by half a dozen vieled women, who were seen
casting bogus votes at Kolipora Budubagh and Brarinambal.

They had reportedly earlier entered into scuffle with on opposition
leader Nazir Ahmad Lone, who opposed their move. When he was narrating
the incident to mediapersons, the NC men led by Farooq started abusing
the mediapersons also.

The concerned right hand man of Sagar was also seen leading his squad at
Sheshgari mohalla, Aqlmir (polling booths no: 54 and 55), where till 3
pm 54 and 31 votes were polled. Most of these votes, according to the
polling staff there, were polled by him.

At Botakadal booth set up at Islamia school, tension ran high following
the fist fighting between the people and the supporters of local MLA
Sadiq Ali, when later tried to cast bogus votes. When the presiding and
polling officers refused to entertain the mobile team, they were beaten
up by the police and escorting team. This created tension outside the
booth, where people were playing cricket. Seeing the condition of
polling officers, the people got agitated and pelted stones on Sadiq Ali
and his mobile voters. His guards fired some rounds in air and escaped
from the scene.

At the Trajabal polling booth in Charar-e-Sharief, the NC men had a
field day by casting the votes.


12 percent in Srinagar claimed

KT NEWS SERVICE
SRINAGAR, Sep 5: Barring a few violent incidents the polling in Srinagar
and Ladakh parliamentary constituenciues went off peacefully, with 12
percent turnout in Srinagar and 71 percent in Ladakh, according to chief
electoral officer S V Bhave.

In a statement issued here, Mr Bhave said in Ladakh constituency the
polling was totally smooth and peaceful. In respect of Srinagar
constituency the polling was very sluggish in the morning and slowly
picked up as the day passed but the percentage is likely to be below 15
percent. Last year the polling for Srinagar constituency was 30 percent.
The maximum percentage of polling is recorded by Charar-e-Sharief
segment at 55 percent followed by Kangan at 31 percent. The lowest
polling percentage was experienced by Habbakadal which was 0.5 percent.

Mr Bhave said there was complaint that NC MLA Mohammad Shafi Bhat was
mooving in number of matadors and carrying the voters/goondas and that
he was trying to rig the elections. The Returning officer was asked to
take appropriate action and his report is awaited, he added. The
presiding officer, according to Mr BHave in the school near Old Hospital
in Amira Kadal segment has also field a complaint that he was assualted
by Mr Bhat MLA. The polce have taken cognizance and the report is
awaited.

He further said, as reported by police control room a police party was
attacked by PDP activists near Asifa Filling Station. Ms Mehbooba Mufti
of PDP was also present on the spot. Police vehicles were damaged in the
process.

Polling break-up

Srinagar Constituency
Kangan 31 percent
Ganderbal 10 -
Hazratbal 5.5 -
Zadibal 3
Eidgah 2
Khanyar 4
Habbakadal 0.5
Amirakadal 9.5
Sonwar 3
Batmaloo 3
Chadoora 13
Budgam 22.5
Beerwah 7.13
Khansahib 8.5
Charar-e-Sharief 55


Several villagers injured in shootout
Endless wait for voters at Kandoora

KT NEWS SERVICE
KANDOORA (Beerwah), Sep 5: In the local primary school, that housed
the polling station for 1,039 voters, the four staffers had kept the
doors and windows of their room open for whole of the day.

Though no voter came to visit them, for most of the day they were
witnessing the house-wives crying and weeping, just in the rear of the
school after a morning shoot-out left six persons injured.

The village, that could have witnessed "honourable turnout", became a
mourning ground besides a source of tension that subsequently affected
the turn-out in the entire belt - thanks to the "efficient" use of
security cover by the ruling National Conference (NC).

The situation in this pictureseque hamlet was no different from the rest
of the Beerwah assembly segment. The militants, especially foreigners,
had campaigned massively against the exercise. Besides distributing
literature, they had made announcements in certain hamlets as well. This
village, located over a steep hillock around 23 Kms from Budgam, was
visited by the troops of Pethkote based 35 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) on
September 2.

The soldiers, locals said, made an announcement from the mike-fitted
mosque asking them to vote in good numbers. The same evening, militants
surfaced. Using the same platform they made an announcemnet against the
polls. It was a devil and deep sea situation, said the village elders,
adding another RR visit this morning complicated the issue.

All the villagers came out in the morning and assembled in the lawns of
the local mosdque. Located almost at the centre of the village, this is
over two chains away from the polling station. "We assembled just to
come to evolve a consensus whether we should vote or not", said an
elederly person adding there was a lot of arguementation between the
supporters of two theories. Well before they could arrive at a
consensus, a taxi car (JKT 2189) appeared. Escorted by two body-guards
Ali Moahmad and Gulam Rasool, it was Gulam Mohi-ud-Din Kala, reportedly
a close relative of MLA Khansahib Abdul Gani Naseem, who was approaching
towards the crowd.

There were clappings, and shouting at the same time, admitted the
villagers adding the "tone was defiant and ridiculous". Without judging
anything, alleged villagers, Mohi-ud-Din asked Ali Mohamad to fire. One
complete magazine of an assault rifle was emptied over the crowd. Six
persons, four of them seriously were injured - Mohamad Shaban Chopan
(35), Gulam Rasool Ahanagar (60), Farooq Ahmad Malik (25) and Abdur
Rahim Mir (60). This led to a panic reaction by the crowd and they
resorted to brick-bating. Cops could manage to flee but on foot. The
vehicle was damaged apparently beyond repairs. Some electoral rolls with
the crowd were destroyed and the crowd took the shape of a disciplined
protest that started marching towrads Beerwah, around three kilometers
away, with their blood-splattered colleagues on their backs.

Shouting anti-NC, pro-freedom slogans, the crowd had another tragedy in
waiting. In Beerwah outskirts, they saw the election observer and the
slogan shouting became vigorous. The reaction was firing of another
spree of bullets one of which hit a passer-by. Though not confirmed, the
lady was identified as Shahzada. It was later when the injured were
rushed to Srinagar.

But why "ridiculous cheers" greeted Mohi-ud-Din ? Villagers had two
reasons - "these NC men never came here" and "he (Mohidin) had taken
huge sums from various villagers and promised them employement but there
was nothing, not even the bribe money in return". He, they said, is a
cheat.

Police, however, acted fast. They arrested all the three and registered
an FIR. Later DIG P L Gupta accompanied by SSP Dr B Srinivas, SP SOG
Syed Ashiq H. Bukhari and R K Jala visited the village. Gupta made a
brief speech and pacified the crowd promising action under the law.
Returning Officer G A Pir said they may go for re-poll in the village.

What could have been the response if shooting had not taken place? There
were more chances of deciding in favour of the exercise rather than
boycotting it. "Our hearts really bleed for these innocent villagers who
were fired upon, poor fellows", said a poll staffer, "but what I can
tell you is that it was beacuse of these villagers that we had a
break-fast after about 24 hour hunger the governmnet enforced upon us",
he added.

The incident added to the brisk campaigning the seperatist militants and
the politicians had done during the last five weeks. In the neighbouring
Najlu hamlet, the security forces were making desperate rounds and
succeeded in herding a vast population to the polling booth. But it
could not help as most of the driven out people fled to their fields. In
the Gundpora polling booth, there were 22 votes polled out of a whopping
1,030. The moment, this reporter stepped out, a huge gathering of the
village saying "do not treat us traitors, all these 22 votes were polled
by the Hayatpora villagers possibly after they were summoned out by the
security forces". The village, police said, witnessed a couple of street
demonstrations during the day.

On the issue of elections, the militants and the security forces have
been fighting for the last so many weeks. There were pressures from both
sides. Today while the security forces managed to roam in a lot of
villages to provide, what officials in Srinagar term, "area security",
the militants, at least in one case, had created hurdles and laid
ambushes that had even panicked the armed forces for most of the day.

Asked about their assessment of the situation of the day, a senior civil
officer and a senior police officer differed. Civil administration
officer said the militants were more serious, this time, to the extent
of do or die. Police officer said the peoples' disenchantment with the
contesting parties was obvious when after being provided adequate
security, they chose not to vote.


Hurriyet claims total poll boycott

KT NEWS SERVICE
SRINAGAR, Sep 5: Declaring that the election boycott call evoked cent
per cent sucess, All Parties Hurriet Conference today expressed
satisfaction over it.

Addressing a hurriedly called press conference at APHC headquarters
here, its chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani thanked the people for showing
solidarity with their programme of anti election boycott.

"Today's poll boycott should be an eye-opener for Indian rulers and
they should learn a lesson from today's experience as people have again
reposed faith in APHC and boycotted the poll", said Geelani rejecting any
claims put forward by election commission regarding free and fair elections.

"The election commission will definitely come out with the figures
about the polling, but we reject their contention outrightly. The election
drama has proved a farce and government should read the writing on the wall and
accept our right of self determination", said the Hurriet chairman.

He said the Hurriet was the guardian of 70,000 people, who laid down
their lives for the motherland. "Now the people have again proved that they
will not compromise with the sacrifices of the 70,000 persons. They have again
pledged that they will not ally with the forces who have raped their women,
killed their dear ones and maimed their beloved", said Geelani adding
they do not accept the elections or selections held under the Indian constitution.

Reiteriating the demand for tripartite talks to solve the Kashmir imbroglio,
Hurriet chairman appealed the United Nations, P-5 and G-8 nations to fulfill
their responsibility and hold the pelbicite in the state.
"UN is party to Kashmir dispute and it should not shrug offf its responsibility
in solving the Kashmir imbroglio. The poll boycott by people has again given
a chance to these organisation to address to the Kashmir problem so that
people are saved of the attrocites perpetuated by the Indian security forces",
said the Hurriet chairman, adding that this is not a border dispute between
India and Pakistan but it is matter of right of 13 million people of the state.

He warned the international community that if this problem was not addressed, it may trigger a necular war between India and Pakistan and for this it will be wholly and solely responsible.

Rejecting the notion that APHC poll boycott has favored the National
Conference, Geelani said they do not believe in elections. "Any arrangement
under Indian constitution is unacceptable to us. It will not only be a betrayal
with the supreme sacrifices, but will also be a farcical exercise as they want
that their right of self determination should be accepted", he noted.

He further added that the votes cast at different polling booths were

manipulated by the National Conference workers and they had pressed
mobile voters comprising of police personnel into service and common
people have boycotted the polls.

Earlier, a film was shown to media persons at Hurriet headquarters
which carried interviews of variosu polling officers and security forces
saying that elections were totally rejected by the voters.

The film also showed the people holding demonstrations in favour of
freedom and boycotting the elections. Besdies, it also showed the persons
injured in the firing at Beerwa. Their relatives were raising slogans against
the state government.


The Asian Age 6,September 99 (DELHI)
Srinagar like ghost town during polls

By Yusuf Jameel
Srinagar: Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar looked like a ghost town on
Sunday. BSF personnel in Rambo-style black bandanas roamed the city's
deserted streets in armoured vehicles throughout the day. The only other
people around were their counterparts from other Central forces, and
local policemen patrolling the streets or standing behind checkpoints.
Some had taken up positions at key street corners.
Occasionally, bulletproof cars carrying government officials or
mainstream politicians with police and paramilitary commando in escort
Gypsies would break the monotony.
Polling staff waited for the voters at secure polling stations but,
except in some areas, no one turned up till midday to vote. Four polling
booths for 3,259 voters had been set up in the historic central hall of
Islamia High School at Rajwari Kadal but not a single vote had been cast
in the first four hours. A polling officer said that he and his
colleagues had confined themselves to the four walls of the building
since Saturday evening. "We cannot even fetch a cup of tea or a loaf of
bread because we are not sure whether we will return alive," he said.
There was only one polling agent for all the four booths. Representing
the ruling National Conference, the young man said, "We all here are a
scared lot."
On Sunday morning a few stones were hurled at the polling stations. When
CRPF personnel guarding the place went out to arrest the vandals, a
crowd gathered and started raising pro-secessionist slogans. Sensing
trouble, the CRPF men were ordered to return.
Deeper in the old city, in Nowshehra, a BSF officer and his soldiers
were going round asking people to come out of their homes and vote. A
few obliged.
Others were preparing to hold a protest demonstration when a group of
reporters passed by. Earlier, four busloads of "mobile voters," mainly
women supporters of the NC, were seen driving from one polling station
to the other in Srinagar to cast votes at will. The policemen did not
dare stop them. At Gowkadal A and B polling booths set up in Kothibagh
Girls Higher Secondary School, 235 female and 101 male votes out of
1,980 were polled in the first five hours of polling. A woman at this
booth identified herself as Sayeeda Bibi against serial number 116 in
the voters' list and wanted to cast her vote. But verification revealed
that a male voter, Mushtaq Ahmed, was registered against the number. She
went away and later returned to vote under a different name. Nobody
objected. On Sunday afternoon, when the "mobile voters" were still
active, a Peoples' Democratic Party leader arrived at the scene. His
security guards "arrested" the driver of one of the minibuses. The women
on board quickly organised a demonstration, shouting "Mufti Sayeed hai
hai, Mufti whisky hai hai." In the nearby Tyndale Biscoe Memorial
School, Congress activists behaved in similar fashion and cast bogus
votes at random for quite some time, witnesses said.
In Jamu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah's constituency
Ganderbal, the traditional bustle at polling stations was missing.
However, in the Kangan segment, 8 to 10 per cent votes had been polled
at the two main polling booths visited at 9.15 am and more voters,
mostly women, were queuing up outside. A small crowd outside a polling
station at Kangan started raising pro-secessionist slogans. One of the
agitators said those inside the polling station were "vested interests."
Another said, "We have burnt all our boats. There is no turning back." A
third insisted that "no economic, no political package is going to come
from there (the Centre), why are we still deceiving ourselves?"
At Wusan, a 60-year-old Kashmiri Pandit, Prem Nath, was among 53 voters
who exercised their franchise by 10 am. His neighbours declared they
were all NC supporters and added that Prem's family had deserted him to
live in Jammu. "He runs a grocery and we all have pledged that no harm
must come to him," said Abdul Razak. Wusan had 15 Pandit families before
militancy began in the Valley. Four remain.
Voters at Charar-e-Sharief were more enthusiastic. Dr Farooq Abdullah's
son and NC candidate Omar Farooq arrived there ahead of us. An angry
crowd stopped his motorcade to complain that a minor girl had been
"raped" by a 25-year-old man from ma neighbouring village a week ago but
the police had not done anything. Mr Omar Farooq promised action. As he
set foot in a settlement behind the mausoleum of Sheikh Nooruddin Wali,
Kashmir's patron saint, surging crowds raised slogans to greet him.
Asked what impact the poor turnout would have on his performance, Omar
Farooq he would still win. "After Kargil, militancy has resurfaced and
people feel scared," Mr Omar Farooq told reporters, adding, "We had been
pleading with the Centre to rope in the Army again but what was needed
was unnecessarily delayed."
Victory for Mr Omar Farooq, seeking re-election from Srinagar, is almost
a forgone conclusion. Budgam-Yachgam and other predominantly Shia
segments where his main rival from the Congress, Aga Syed Mehdi, had
polled the maximum number of votes in the last election, too saw a poor
turnout. "We have lost interest," said a Mehdi supporter. His elder
brother, Aga Syed Hassan, is still in detention after he was arrested
during the Hurriyat Conference's anti election campaign last week.


Only 11%voter turnout in Srinagar

By Yusuf Jameel
Srinagar: The militants' call for a boycott of the polls found many
takers in the Srinagar constituency, unlike in Ladakh where a record 70
per cent polling was recorded on Sunday.
In Srinagar, the voter turmout was as low as 11.18 per cent, official
sources said. Srinagar has an electorate of 8,54,136. Habba Kadal, one
of the segments, recorded only 0.05 polling whereas Idgah recorded two
per cent polling. Zadibal, Batamallo and Sonawar had three per cent turn
out each and Khanyar four per cent. The turnout in Hazratbal, the other
segment falling in Srinagar, was slightly better. It recorded 5.5 per
cent whereas Amira Kadal had 9.5 per cent polling. Ganderbal, where from
chief minister Farooq Abdullah has been elected to Assembly several
times, 10 per cent voters showed up in the lowest turnout in many years.
Also, significant is the poor turnout recorded at Chadoora (13 per
cent), Khan Sahib (8.5 per cent), Beeru (7.13 per cent) and Budgam (13.5
per cent). All these segments had recorded brisk polling in the last Lok
Sabha elections. Charar-e-Sharief was the only exception where a high of
55 per cent voters used their franchise. In Kangan, another safe segment
for the NC, 31 per cent votes were polled.
However, in Ladakh 73 per cent voters cast their franchise in Kargil, 70
per cent in Zanskar, 67 per cent in Leh and 66 per cent in Nobra
segments. Ladhak kas an electorate of 1,43,492, statistics show. The
official briefing on the polling scheduled to be held here on Sunday
evening was cancelled at the eleventh hour following a directive from
the Election Commission, director information Sudhanshu Pandey said.
The chief minister who cast his vote at 25-C Munshibagh of Sonawar
segment at 9:15 am while speaking to reporters said that the attempts to
scuttle the poll process in Jammu and Kashmir at the behest of Islamabad
would ultimately rebound in Pakistan. "People of the state have immense
faith in democracy which they have and will demonstrate emphatically,"
he asserted. The police said that polling was held peacefully except
for a shooting incident outside Beeru township in which five people were
injured. Hurriyat Conference which had called for poll boycott
asserting the exercise cannot be a substitute to the Kashmiri's right to
self dtermination alleged that even the low turnout was possible only
through "coercion, booth capturing and other manipulations and
malpractice."
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Hurriyet Conference chairman, and other
amalgum leaders who addressed a press conference here said that people
boycotted polls endorsing its demand for holding a plebiscite in the
state to allow the people to determine their political future.


The Hindu (Delhi) 6 September, 1999
Low turnout in Srinagar
By Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR, SEPT. 5. Amid a number of violent incidents in which at least
six people were injured, polling came to a close in Srinagar and Ladakh
parliamentary constituencies. Srinagar city witnessed a near total
boycott of elections, for which the call had been given by the
separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Overall turn out was
recorded at 12 per cent in Srinagar and 71 per cent in Ladakh.
Polling in the rural areas of Srinagar constituency including Badgam,
Kangan, Ganderbal, Beerwah and Chadoora started on a very dull note but
picked up in the late afternoon. Charar-e-Sharief Assembly segment
recorded brisk polling with 55 per cent of votes polled at the end of
day, while Habbakadal Assembly segment recorded the lowest percentage of
0.5, the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. S. V. Bhave. Last year, the
polling percentage in Srinagar was 30. Mr. Bhave confirmed that there
were complaints that the National Conference MLA, Mr. Mohammed Shafi
Bhat, moved around Srinagar in a convoy of vans carrying voters/goondas
and that he was trying to rig the elections. ``The returning officer has
taken appropriate action and his report is awaited,'' Mr. Bhave said.
The presiding officer of a booth in a school at Old Hospital also filed
a complaint that he was assaulted by Mr. Bhat.

Mr. Bhave said a police party was attacked by activists of the People's
Democratic Party and that the party's leader, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, was
also present.
At Ompora polling booth in Budgam, not a single vote had been cast at
8-45 a.m. The same was the case in two other adjacent polling stations.
Shia-dominated Budgam town, however, saw people coming out to cast their
votes. Out of 1,010 votes, 103 had been polled by 9-05 a.m. at Budgam-B.
There was a long queue of voters, both men and women, outside the
polling booth at Chandpora in Budgam where 175 votes out of 1234 had
been polled at 9-30 a.m.

However, the fear of militants had gripped the entire area as they had
been patrolling in the villages during the night as well asking them not
to vote. Militants reportedly had laid an ambush on the vital
Budgam-Beerwah road at Poonch Gund. Army personnel stationed in the area
also were cautioning against taking the route. The militants had blocked
the road and no vehicle of the security forces could pass. However,
authorities when contacted in Budgam dismissed it as a ``scare'' created
by vested interests.
Presspersons were greeted with separatist slogans at Ichgam, otherwise a
stronghold of the Congress(I) candidate, Mr. Agha Syed Mehdi. Out of
1287 votes at Ichgam 36, only 27 votes had been polled at 12.20 PM. In
the same area, Chadoora polling station recorded 275 votes out of 1,229
at around 12-50 p.m. The Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah's home
constituency, Ganderbal, recorded a very low turnout of 4.8 per cent at
around 3 p.m. while Kangan recorded 28 per cent at the same time. Almost
all the polling booths in Srinagar Downtown had not received a single
voter even at 4-30 p.m.

At Kandoora in Beerwah Tehsil the security guards of the brother- in-law
of the National Conference MLA, Mr. Abdul Gani Naseem, opened fire on a
crowd which surrounded their car. Five persons were injured. Senior
police officers rushed to the spot and ordered the arrest of the MLA's
kin and two security guards.

A blast took place in the premises of the Government primary school at
Barsoo in Ganderbal, a polling station. No harm was caused. Workers of
rival parties clashed at many places.

The ever-tense Maisuma locality in Srinagar Uptown witnessed day- long
clashes between police and anti-election demonstrators. Police resorted
to teargas and lathicharge to disperse the demonstrators. In Jamia
Masjid locality also people pelted stones at the police injuring some of
them. Srinagar city and other parts of the valley observed a complete
strike today in response to the call given by APHC. All shops and
business establishments were closed and traffic was also off the roads.
Elaborate security arrangements had been made to ensure incident free
polling today.

Meanwhile, APHC leaders led by its chairman, Syed Ali Geelani, expressed
satisfaction over the response to the Hurriyat's boycott call. Mr.
Geelani said elections were no substitute for the ``right of
self-determination''.
Farooq keeps options open Dr. Farooq Abdullah said his party was
keeping its options open on supporting any party at the Centre after the
elections. Talking to the press after casting his vote, Dr. Abdullah
said ``In politics you cannot close your options. You have to be prudent
in this matter.''


The Indian Express (Delhi) 6, September 1999
Army jawans drag Kashmiris to booths

Vikram Jit Singh & Nazir Masoodi

KRUHAMA (KASHMIR), SEPT 5: Concerted efforts by personnel of the BSF,
CRPF, Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operations Group to `enforce' a
good voter turnout across the Kangan-Ganderbal-Downtown Srinagar belt
paid only marginal returns. At the end of the day, the turnout was below
25 per cent.

Even this is suspect since The Indian Express was witness to numerous instances of Kashmiri voters prodded to the ballot box by AK rifle-wielding jawans. In the evening, these `voters' would be made to show their fingers to the
security forces as testimony of having renewed their membership of
democracy. They call it the `nail parade.'

A burly counter-insurgent working with the armed forces burst into 55-year-old Zoona's hovel in Kruhama spilling the milk she had put on boil. She was dragged out for the date with democracy. The illiterate woman cast her vote for the `albane' (National Conference's plough) and ensured she had her finger inked.
Her neighbour, Sara, 40, bore the brunt of rifle butts when sherefused to leave the bakery shop. A student of Class VII, 12-year-old Tariq Ahmad cast his `vote' at Kruhama polling station. Hustled to the polling station, Manzoor Ahmad, 17,
didn't figure in the voters' list. But sympathetic polling staff inked his finger in front of these correspondents to save his skin in the evening `nail parade' before the security forces.

If the SOG/CRPF team led by Inspector Jeevan Sharma utilised the services of a counter-insurgent, Mustafa, in Kruhama and Barsoo, it was the Rashtriya Rifles resorting to an innovative tactic in nearby Yar Muqam, Manigam.

`Yesterday, the RR took away our ID cards. We were told that when we show the ink on our fingers today evening, only then will the ID cards be returned to us,' said the aged Yar Mohammad, a Gujjar. Around him were his fellow `voters'
in a frenzy locating their names on the voters' list.

In the idyllic surroundings of the trout-breeding centre at Margund, Kangan, polling agents of a leading party elucidated on the credentialsof patriotism demanded of them.

`Even us polling agents have come here to show our patriotism as the Ikhwanis (counter-insurgents) are even demanding weapons from dead persons. That is to say that all of us are under suspicion and constantly harassed by Ikhwanis. Today evening we must show the ink marks on our fingers to the Ikhwanis,' said a polling agent preferring
anonymity.

Driving through the deserted streets of downtown Srinagar, one sees people being herded out like cattle from the narrow lanes by the 97 BSF. People protested before the BSF officers and jawans in Zadibal, Nowshera. Some got abuses in return. `We have no choice but to cast our votes. These candidates standing for election will not be our real representatives,' said Ghulam Hassan, as he turned around to the BSF personnel and asked him: `If you were in my place and had no choice, would you vote or not? It is my right to cast a vote or boycott.'

Right through Zadibal and Cowdara, the BSF was seen herding out people. When asked toexplain, BSF personnel had their versions. One said that they were merely helping voters find the right booths. A BSF officer said that the voters needed an alibi of being forced out by the security forces to escape the wrath of the militants enforcing the poll boycott.


The Times of India (Delhi) dated 6, September 99
Poor turnout, violence mar Srinagar polls

By Law Kumar Mishra
The Times of India News Service d

BUDGAM: The Lok Sabha elections in Srinagar-Budgam constituency had all
the elements of a Meham, Baghpat or any volatile constituency of
Bihar-rigging of elections, both capture, firings and loot of ballots.

Four villagers of Kundura were injured in firing by the supporter of a
regional party. They were rushed to Srinagar hospital in a critical
condition. The voting percentage ranged between nil to 7 per cent in
most of the assembly segments. It was 40 per cent in Charare Sharief and
in the chief minister Farooq Abdullah's assembly segment of Ganderbal it
was as low as 4.8 per cent. In the Srinagar town, the voting percentage
ranged between 0.08 per cent in Habakadal to Jadibal one per cent.

The common electorate was caught between the proverbial deep sea and the
devil. In one of the villages in Budgam district, the militants snatched
the public address system from the moulvi of the Jamia Masjid at 7 p.m.
on Friday, and appealed to the villagers not to cast their votes. Next
morning, the Rashtriya Rifles jawans appeared to the village and asked
the villagers to report to the polling booths.

On Sunday morning too, the RR jawans asked the villagers to march to the
polling booths.

The RR at several polling booths told the correspondent: ``We have
simply persuaded the villagers to vote as it was their right. The Budgam
deputy commissioner, G.A. Peer, who is also the returning officer, told
The Times of India News Service: ``The situation this year is worse than
1998 as militants have sneaked into the villages of the constituency.''
He denied the charge that the Army was forcing people to turn to the
polling booths.

Y.P.S. Tomar, a 1974 batch IAS officer from Maharashtra, who is the EC
observer, said at Eichgam: ``No force has been used. Turnout was good in
rural areas, but very poor in Srinagar town.''

The fear of the militants was evident on the face of the electorate, as
well as the polling officials. The entire team of polling staff deserted
the polling booth at Sonapah, following rumours that the militants have
struck a neighbouring village. The polling material, including voters
list, were destroyed at Kunduru booth. The voters regretted they had to
receive threats from the militants everywhere. Due to their threat,
curfew like conditions prevailed throughout the Valley. No market was
open and the vehicular traffic, including autos and petrol pumps, were
closed due to the strike call given by the anti-election campaigners.
Roads presented a deserted look.

The returning officer admitted there was no enthusiasm among the voters,
due to threat of militants who held demonstrations in Srinagar town,
inviting teargassing by the police at seven places and blasted a road at
Haran in Budgam town on Sunday. Due to the threat, polling was very poor
in the state capital also. From Rawalpora, Hyderpora, Sanatnagar, Mirpur
in Srinagar town to Budgam taxi stand, all the polling booths were
deserted. Most shocking was the poor turnout of voters in Farooq
Abdullah's Ganderbal constituency, where only four per cent people
voted.

Mr Farooq Abdullah and his family members cast their votes at Burunall
school polling booth here. They were the first voters to reach the
booth. Over 95 per cent of booths in the state capital reported zero to
0.05 per cent voters' turnout due to the election boycott call by the
militants.

The Congress candidate from Budgam-Srinagar seat, Syed Agha Mehdi, on
Sunday evening, conceded his defeat to the National Conference
candidate, Omar Abdullah. He alleged he has lost to Omar as he resorted
to unprecedented rigging of elections, worse than 1987. He alleged
booths were captured from Srinagar's Khalsa School booth to Gondipoura
in Budgam.

In Srinagar town's some of the high-profile colonies of Rambagh and
Natipora and Lalnagar, only one per cent voters turned up at the polling
booths causing concern among the political observers. This correspondent
who visited over 50 polling booths did not find the rest rooms, tea
stalls, drinking water facility or doctors as promised by the election
commissioner, G.V.G. Krishnamoorthy here last week.


The Pioneer (Delhi) 6 September, 1999
Voters shun the polling booth in Srinagar

Rashid Ahmad / Srinagar

It was a day a day for politicians and political parties, but it
actually belonged to young kids. Hundreds of them spilled into the main
streets and roads of Srinagar, turning it into a cricket field amid a
tight strike here on Sunday for the Lok Sabha poll.

In fact, no civilian movement other than the kids was witnessed
throughout the day. All the polling booths in the city wore a deserted
look with only the polling staff and the police whiling away their time.
When the presiding officers at three polling booths at Watalkadal in the
interior of Srinagar were sealing the boxes, they did not contain even a
single vote. "We are just fulfilling a formality and sealing the boxes,"
said one polling officer. "Not a single voter turned up to cast his or
her vote," confirmed the presiding officer of Watalkadal-B. The position
was no different at the two other booths in the locality. At two
polling stations in Kadikadal, in the Eid Gah Assembly segment, the
polling staff was seen basking in the sun outside their polling station
at 3 pm. "We are sitting idle," said Professor Javaid Ahmad, presiding
officer of one polling booth. "No voter has come forward to cast his or
her vote so far." At Buchpora in the Hazaratbal Assembly segment, out of
a total of 1400 votes at two booths, no vote was cast till 3.45 pm. One
kilometre ahead at Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's home constituency,
just six votes were cast at two polling booths at Pandach at 3.30 pm.
Some seven or eight persons, who were seen inside the polling station,
complained that they had been herded out of their houses by personnel of
the BSF and the Special Operation Group (SOG) of the state police. "We
don't want to cast our vote," said Ghulam Mohammad, an elderly villager,
"but these people are forcing us," he said, pointing towards a large
number of BSG and SOG personnel present on the scene.

The reporters, including this correspondent, saw the security personnel
making a round of the village and asking people to come out and vote. A
similar scene was witnessed at Haripora village in the rural Assembly
segment of Budgam, where a SOG party swooped down on the villagers
forcing them to cast their votes. Not a single vote had been cast till
11 am at the two booths in the village. "Why should we vote," said a
young man in his early twenties. "They (politicians) are thieves. What
good have they done to the people. They want us to vote for them for
making more and more money," he said.

But this was before the SOG men barged into the village. Armed with
sticks, besides their service weapons, they were seen herding people
towards the polling booth. However, when they saw the media watching
them, they restrained themselves.

Reports of coercion poured in from various areas of Ganderbal, Khan
Sahab and Beerwah Assembly segments. Mediapersons also saw security
personnel coercing people to cast their vote at Yechgam in Khan Sahab
Assembly segment. At Kundoora village in Beerwah Assembly segment, a
personal security officer of a National Conference MLA, fired
indiscriminately at the residents when they refused to oblige him by
coming to the polling station. At least five persons, including a woman,
sustained injuries. They were admitted to Srinagar's SMHS Hospital.
However, the Chrar-e-Sharief and Chadoora Assembly segments, where NC
leader and Agriculture Minister Abdul Rahim Rather enjoys a considerable
influence, witnessed moderate to brisk polling. At Chrar-e-Sharief, 300
votes out of 770 had been polled at one polling station in the first
three hours. At another polling booth, voters were seen waiting for
their turn. Reports of low to moderate polling were also received from
Gujar segment of Kangan. Mian Altaf, a Gujjar leader and a minister in
the Farooq Abdullah Cabinet, is an influential leader. Some polling by a
group of fringe voters was also witnessed in the Capital. At Baranpather
in Batamaloo Assembly segment of Srinagar, 185 votes out of a total of
892, had been cast till 1pm. At another booth in the same segment, out
of887, 111 votes had been cast and none was a female voter. Seventeen
votes were cast at another booth in the same constituency.
The official version on polling was not made available as the press
briefing by the Chief Electoral Officer was cancelled at the last hour.
The All Party Huriyat Conference, which had called for the boycott of
the elections, claimed that it was a 100 per cent success. Even though
the ruling party used coercive methods to force people to vote at some
places, the boycott call was by and large, successful, they said.