|September 18, 1999
Four Kashmiris killed in cold blood,
Severe Government Coercion in Indian Election polling
Today in Baramulla, the government of India made true on a threat by
its puppet leader in Kashmir, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, to "use
the armed forces and drag the people out of their homes and vote at
gunpoint". This threat was made since the Indian government is angry
about the successful people's boycott of Indian elections held thus far
to voice their demand for independence.
In all most every localities, journalists saw people being dragged from
their homes and voting at gunpoint. People were seen being beaten, and
dozens were arrested and taken to detention centers. In those areas
where villagers resisted voting and non-violently protested, the Indian
army used lethal force firing into crowds of Kashmiri men, women, and
children. In the towns of Shilvath three innocent civilians were shot
in cold blood and in Haigam, a 17 year-old boy was killed when Indian
forces fired into another protesting crowd.
The Indian Express Delhi 19 September, 1999
Jawans drag people to vote in the Valley
Ashwani Talwar & Mir Ehsan
BARAMULLA, SEPT 18: The day belongs to you, the night
belongs to us,'' -- the warning was delivered by Armymen in
Zandeferan village. The villagers got the message immediately:
if they didn't get out and vote during the day, the Army
would be very, very angry at night.
The words might have been different but the message was the
same at several other villages in Baramulla district as security
forces, particularly Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units, went about
getting people to cast their votes.
At some places they cajoled -- ``Apnee hukamat banao''
(Form your own government), they told people in one village.
At another, residents reported that their fingers were being
checked for the tell-tale ink-stain. And then there was the
Shilwat episode where two men were reportedly shot dead in
a fracas with security personnel who wanted them to vote.
In Sopore town, The Indian Express saw about a dozen
men walking tamely to the polling centre, led by a junior BSF
officer. At the rear were several BSFjawans. ``They have
pulled us out of our homes,'' the voters said in Kashmiri
as they filed past our car.
When asked, the officer-in-charge claimed the villagers
wanted to vote and had asked for ``protection.'' Security
personnel say that often villagers who want to vote like to let
the world know that they have been coerced. ``Otherwise,
the militants would be very angry.''
But at times, even the jawans admit that they are not just
providing ``protection.'' At Baghat in Sopore, two jawans
were seen asking a small group of women to go and cast their
vote. The women were dead against the idea. And when
these reporters reached there, one of the soldiers asked
almost involuntarily: ``Have you voted?''
Asked if people were coming out to vote, he candidly
admitted that only 50 had turned up and, that too, ``with
great difficulty.'' He also admitted that they had to be
threatened: ``Daraya-dhamkaya, phir aaye.'' And he was
doing it only because his superiors wanted him to. ``We were
told that if they do not come out (willingly to vote),
bring them `by order','' he said.
At Gund Kareem Khan village in Rafiabad Assembly
segment, Armymen landed up early morning and spread the
word that everybody should vote by 8.30 am. The same RR
team, according to local residents, visited the village twice
again. During the third visit around 12.30 pm, the village
headman accompanied them. While many people had already
walked to the booth, this time they brought along a minibus as well, the
For J-K villagers, ink- mark is all that
PATTAN SEPTEMBER 18
It is polling day in Pattan. Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah seems to
have kept his word uttered at an election rally here a few days back -
most of the villagers have been forced by the army to their vote,
otherwise face the consequences in the evening.
Interestingly, all these polling booths are situated around the same
play field where Farooq Abdullah told a rally that people will be forced
to come out to vote.
Everybody here has the same story to tell except the few dozen activists
of the National Conference, namely the relatives of A.R. Shaheen, the NC
candidate, who belongs to this town.
'As it is harvest time, I had left for the fields early in the morning.
But the Army men stopped me and asked me to go to Pattan to cast my
vote. I had to walk more than four kms to reach here," Mohammad
Dar, 55 a farmer of Mandeyar, a village on the outskirts of Pattan town,
who was not allowed to cast his vote: somebody had done it for him. But
he was happy with the indelible ink mark on his finger. "They (Army
men) will come in the evening to check out fingers. I am safe now,
This correspondent reached here at around 10.30 AM to witness bogus
voting going on in every booth. Around 11.30 am, a young man, who
happened to be a close relative of Shaheen, came into a booth and cast
the vote of Mala Reshi. This was reportedly the 15th vote he cast at the
In fact, there was lot of impersonation, especially by Shabeen's
relatives who belong to Pattan. In fact, the votes of most of the
villagers from Trikolbal, Mandyar, Zade Mohalla, Kusarpur and Ghat had
already been cast. Rafeeqa, 35 had come to vote. She found her vote
already cast. SO she cast her vote as Munnera, daughter of Abdullah
Wani. "I will not go back home without ink mark. First you people
force us out of our homes to vote then ask questions here," she told
polling officials, who were denying her the chance the chance to vote,
keeping in view the presence of journalists.
A youngster was being carried by his uncle on his back to the polling
booth. The villagers, who were from Trikolbal were reluctant to reveal
their identity as they were scared of reprisals by the Army and state
police. "He is ill and is not able to walk. But the Army men will not
listen in the evening," the villager said. "We had no option
to get him here to cast the vote".
At around 1 PM a Tata Safari and a few jeeps stopped outside the polling
booths. It was Muzzafar Hussain Beigh, the PDP candidate from
Baramullah, accompanied by around a dozen toughs. Within minutes there
was noise from every booth. Beigh claimed that booth 17 A had been
captured by the NC and the polling staff was also helping them to stamp
the ballot papers. "They had been doing bogus voting since the
The polling staff, the police and the NC activists are hand in glove in
this rigging, Beigh accused.
The Pioneer Delhi 19 September, 1999
Eight killed in J&K Security men "force" people to caste
PNS ADDS FROM SRINAGAR: At least eight persons including two ITBP men
were killed and scores injured in the incidents of firing and explosions
that marred the polling for Baramulla parliamentary constituency in
Three persons were killed in Shilwat village in Sumbal Assembly segment
when security forces allegedly opened fire on the residents following
their refusal to cast their votes. The residents alleged that columns of
Rashtriya Rifles swooped on the village and ordered the local people to
come out of their houses to cast their votes. The residents opposed them
and raisd slogans, which enraged the forces. They opened fire and eight
persons were allegedly hit by bullets, of whom three got killed.
However, an Army spokesman said that securitymen opened fire in
self-defence when some people attemted to snach their weapons.
A 17-year-old boy was killed under similar conditions at Hiagam village
in Sangrama Assembly segment. He was identified as Altaf Hussain. The
residents alleged that security forces herded out all the villagers,
including small boys and girls from their houses and asked them to vote.
When people resented, they were allegedly fired upon, resulting in the
death of one boy. The residents took out a massive protest march and
staged dharna on Srinagar Baramullah highway. They kept the body of the
boy on the highway for more than an hour.
Two person were injured in another incident of coercion of voters at
Tarzoo near sopore. Reports of use of force by securitymen
came from almost everywhere in the constituency. People in Langate,
Kalamabad, Kulangam, Chogal, Sopore, Seelu, Pattan,
Bandipora, Uri and several others places alleged that they
were dragged out by security forces to vote. A team of
mediapersons including this corespondent saw a BSF party led by DIG DS
Tiwana herding out people to polling booths at Palpora Qaziabad in
Langate. At Kulangam, the scene was same, as jawans of Rashtriya Rifles
were engaged in forcing people to vote.
In village Zungam in Pattan Assembly segment, Army personnel were seen
making the rounds and knocking at the doors of local residents and
asking them to come out and vote. When mediapersons wanted to know from
one of the officers as to why they were coercing people out of their
houses, he retorted, "Yeh Ghar main baithne Ka Time Nahi Hai"
not the time to sit inside the house). A woman alleged that she was
beaten up when she refused to vote.
NC leader and party polling agent Ghulam Hassan Shikari was shot dead on
Saturday afternoon by militants at village Keegam in Kupwara district,
police said. In a major strike to enforce poll boycott, militants
attacked Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel posted at a polling
station at Ajas, 40 km from here, killing two of its jawans and wounding
three others, the sources said.
The Asian Age Delhi 19 September, 1999
Shadow of fear, spark of anger in Kashmir Valley
By Yusuf Jameel
Baramulla: Never before has this ancient town in the narrow Jhelum
valley seen as much tension as it did on Saturday. Hundreds of
gun-wielding securitymen swarmed the otherwise deserted streets -some
manning drop-gates and checkpoints laid at short distances. Others stood
guard behind sandbagged bunkers. Very few of the 50,000 voters here
ventured out to vote.
At Khanpora, only 151 out of 2,347 registered voters
had cast their vote in the first three hours of polling. The enthusiasm
among the voters witnessed during the last election was missing.
However, most of the voters said they had come to vote to support their
neighbour, Khan-pora is the birthplace of Prof. Saifuddin Soz who is
seeking re-election from Baramulla. Some, however, alleged that they
were coerced to vote. "Last evening and also this morning soldiers
threatened from the mosque loudspeakers that people without indelible
ink mark on their fingers would be seen as a terrorist and treated as
such," said Sheikh Abdul Qayyum as he emerged out of a booth behind
tomb of sufi saint Syed Mohammad Rufayee Qadiri or
Janbaz Wali. Chaos persisted at the polling booths.
Some of the voters were complaining that their names were missing from
the electoral list. An ailing woman was escorted and brought in by two
other elderly women. A young man, apparently aware of their political
affiliation, guided them how to cast their vote and pointed out a
particular election symbol. Neither the polling officers nor the people
objected to this. The shabby building of government boys middle school
at Bangla Bagh had seven polling booths with 5,067 voters. Only 13 votes
had been polled till 10.30 am. There were at least six checkpoints and
drop-gates along the road to neighbouring Sopore, with tight security
The killing of two local traders by CRPF men at Sopore in reprisal to a
militant attack which had left 26 policemen injured earlier this week,
has driven up the tension rate in this apple-rich town. Not a single
vote had been cast by midday, nor were any election agents present. On
the way to Srinagar, about 1,500 men and women were squatting on the
highway, at Haigam, wailing "Ya Hussain, Ya Hussain." In the
the crowd was the body of a 17-year-old boy - Altaf Hussain Mir - whose
parents and neighbours alleged that he was shot dead by troops who
descended on this predominantly Shia village on Saturday morning to
coerce them to vote.
"They came and began herding us out to the polling station but we
resisted and they began to fire volleys in the air," said an elderly
protestor. Mir had told the soldiers that he wasn't a voter. One of them
started hitting him, another shot him in the abdomen, the witnesses
said. When the villagers protested, an officer told them that his
juniors had been fired upon from the rear and in the melee one of them
triggered off his gun.
However, at the Pattan township, a large number of voters had turned up
at two main polling booths and none of them had a complaint. At one of
these, activists of National Conference were ensuring that their
candidate Abdur Rashid Shaheen gets all the votes. Their counterparts
from other parties looked helpless. Pattan is Mr Shaheen's hometown.
Up in Tangmarg, several voters said they were using their democratic
right out of their free will.
A roadside hoarding put up by the Sikh Light Infantry at Singhpora, the
last village of the constituency, along the road to Srinagar read
us give peace a chance." Another said "Come and join us to make
Kashmir a paradise again." A third one at a little distance
reminded one of Sheikh Abdullah's famous slogan of Hindu, Muslim
Sikh itehad (unity). The hoarding, however, added to it: "Pehle
Hindustani, phir bhai bhai (First Indians, then brothers).
The Hindu Delhi 19 September, 1999
Violence claims 8 lives in J & K
By Shujaat Bukhari
BARAMULLA, SEPT. 18. At least eight people, including two jawans of
the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were killed, and several others
injured in poll-related violence here today. These incidents hit the voter
turnout in the second phase of polling in the
constituency, which was recorded at 27 per cent.
With near total response to the boycott call given by the separatist
Conference, there were allegations of coercion by security
forces, which led to the death of four civilians.
A 17-year-old boy, Altaf Ahmed Mir, was killed when security forces
entered Haigam village to ask the people to vote. A scuffle ensued after
villagers refused. The security forces opened fire, in
which Altaf was killed.
In Shilwat village, in the Sonwari Assembly segment, three civilians were
killed after some people attacked the security forces who had gone there
``ask the people'' to vote. The security forces fired in
self-defence, in which three civilians were killed and three injured.
The Returning Officer and Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla, Sheikh
Mohammad Hussain, said, ``I have got reports but it is difficult to say
was responsible for the firing.''
A Defence spokesman, however, said the security forces were conducting
searches in the Shilwat area when some militants, who were hiding in some
houses, ran into a nearby crowd. When Armymen tried to nab them,
sympathisers of the militants blocked their way and attempted to snatch
their weapons. The security personnel then opened fire, in
which two civilians were killed.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. S.V. Bhave, said that bombs set off by
militants in some places had interrupted polling for short durations, but
were no reports that people were not able to vote at all. While the
Assembly segment recorded the highest turnout of 50 per cent, Sangrama
recorded the lowest of 2.5 per cent. Sopore recorded only 5 per cent.
Militants attacked a polling booth in Ajas village near Bandipore. Two
jawans were killed and three others injured in the attack.
One militant was killed.
The State Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Maulvi Iftikhar
Hussain Ansari, escaped an assassination bid at a polling station in the
Baramulla parliamentary constituency, official sources
said in Srinagar.
Militants opened fire on the Minister, when he visited the Ikhwanpora
polling station. The sources said Moulvi Ansari's
bodyguards returned fire, forcing the militants to flee.
BJP leader's son freed
The 34-hour-long hostage drama, involving the kidnapping of the
seven-year-old son of a BJP leader, ended in Srinagar this
evening when the boy was set free.
Abdul Rehman Sheikh, the boy's father and the BJP's initial choice for the
Anantnag constituency, said his son was let off by the captors, after he
Rs. 2.50 lakhs as ransom.
The Kashmir Times Jammu 19 September, 1999
3 killed for demonstrating against polls, minor for refusing to cast vote
Baramualla voters herded to booths kicking and screaming 'Show us
indelifble ink mark or face consequences'
KT NEWS SERVICE
BARAMULLA, Sep 18: For maintaining the low turn-out trend set by
Srinagar early this month, apparently indifferent north Kashmir voter
offered tough resistance to severe coercion bids by security forces even
the cost of their lives. Four persons were allegedly killed, three for
demonstrating against polls and a minor for not going to the booth. Around
100 others are said to have been injured during the day.
Pockets, apparently insensitive towards the developments in the plains,
from Uri to Karnah besides the always exception of Pattan township,
however, witnessed brisk polling that pushed the turn-out to the "honourable
mark" of around 27 percent. The day long exercise that witnessed
coercive efforts by the establishment is likely to record a good number of
ballots rejected by the involuntary voters.
The constituency that wore a deserted look was looking like a curfew bound
territory with silence ruling the main townships barring Handwara where
brisk polling and pre-1990 poll fighting was witnessed. Indifference
the exercise, resis tance to the coercian, the indelible ink and finally
success of coercion were the main highlights of the day besides bids by
insurgents to add to the anti-poll mood.
In 'most of the constituency's rural belt, it was the return of
terror" that was first introduced in the 1996 parliamentary polls.
everywhere, the villagers alleged, the troops had issued "categoric
that the absence of the ink mark will lead to problems in the coming days.
In Langate, where the voters had two elections, a crowd swelled into a mob
in the lawns of the local high school, housing three booths, in the
Many would approach the polling staff and ask for something. They would
refuse and send them back. Then two RR soldiers appeared and the mob
surrounded them pleading that they are not enlisted in the rolls.
"You are so
old, how could the list ignore you .. I do not know how you will vote but
must have the mark on your finger", the RR man advised a young man.
even advised the police officials on duty to help in managing the youth to
vote. The people in the mob said they are being herded out and the process
had started from 7 AM.
In Kupwara, where people had been given a deadline of 12 noon for
participating voluntarily, a section of the youngmen had
own version of "indelible ink". They said they added Nitrogen
Peroxide to a
particular ink but did not reveal the formula. Most of them were not sure
whether the ink helps them or not.
A group of the old city residents in Sopore, were unlucky. They had no
formula. They simply went to one of the polling booths and requested for
special ink pot. The officer refused. They came again. While two of them
engaged the officer in conversation, the other two snatched away the
and fled. "We could stop them and get it back but watching them
desperately seeking the ink, we thought it was inhuman to act",
one of the poll officials.
Kulangam, the village where the main road bifurcates leading to Handwara
and Kupwara, was the scene of a peculiar protest upto 10 am. The residents
came out in response to the "frequent summoning" by the security
Instead of going to the polling booths, they gathered in the main crossing
males and females, separately. In a loose cordon of the armed forces with
almost every finger on the triggers, they did not shout slogans. The
was later lifted and the booths closed with abysmally low turn-out.
Unlike other villages where life was normal at least in the fields,
of Palpora - Qazipora village on Langate -Baramulla route were completely
lifeless. However, the vehicle carrying the KT team came to grinding halt
when a mob appeared on the road almost breaking the cordon, they were
out since 6 AM. In a long field, were the residents. While on one side of
vehicle came a BSF inspector, the people came from the other side - both
the parties offering their version of the stand-off that had resulted in
turn-out by 1 AM hours. Sir, cried the BSF inspector, "they said they
frightened and we offered them security, they came out but they are not
voting, there is no coercion". The locals, however, maintained that
and BSF came separately and finally managed them out of their houses.
"We do not want to vote, why should they force us", they said
are asking the poll staff for the ink mark..".
Hitting sixers on the lawns of a Baramulla booth was a crowd of minors.
Enjoying the day, they admit, they could have been coerced to poll so many
votes had they been in a village. In the polling booths, no voter had
- Banglabagh, Arampora, Sayed Karim booths with zero scores. Two votes
polled in 62-Baghi Islam at 1330 hours were the polling agents of PDP and
NC. Their colleagues in the neighbouring stations were unlucky. While
waiting for others to vote for their parties, they lost their own votes
they hailed from different areas.
Indifference towards the exercise was obvious when most of the people in
the countryside fled to their orchards and paddy fields early in the
After various rounds to the localities of a maruti-borne "army
officer" failed to
get an honourable response, teams were rushed to the fields itself.
the peasants from Jagerpora, Gushi, Bahipora, and Nagri being almost
dragged to the polling booth alongwith their sickles and ropes", said
65-year old áman, while sharing a cup of tea with KT team at Kupwara. The
booth, where they were herded by the troops, had three out of 930 votes
polled at 1005 hours.
Within minutes came a four-member group from Kalaroos Dal hamlet,
around 8 Kms from Kupwara, with severe bruises inflicted upon them by the
troops from RR 22 and 32. During the wee hours, they said, they were
dragged out. "We did not tell them will not come out sought time for
breakfast which irked them", said one of the injured villagers,
said they do not want their votes - we want you to do be filmed..",
Many areas witnessed a cat and the mouse game between the security
forces and the voters. They would barge into the village on one side and
people would flee from the other. However, the scene changed late in the
afternoon especially in the remote hamlets. In Tapper Tai the Rashtriya
Rifles men were seen barging into the houses of the villagers and
them to vote. Seeing mediamen proceeding towards them, they melted into
the village interior. In Shalpora and Mazbugh, a joint posse of RR and JAK
rifles were seen flocking the people towards the booths. In both places,
vote was polled in first three hours.
The Delina polling booths, which were attacked by militants late Friday
evening, roads were deserted. However, around a 50 youths were playing
and watching volley ball adjacent to the booth. But only six voters out of
2,899 had turned inside six booths there.
The situation in Yaal, Krishhama, Sonim and Ningarpora villages in Pattan
constituency was even worse. Dozens of people including women were
beaten by RR personnel stationed at Chek Seeri. The residents were herded
towards the booths. "But all of us rejected our votes", said an
Some of the voters were not even eligible for vote. "We are now
polling staff to mark our fingers with the indelible ink as the security
have threatened us to launch a crack down to find out whether we have cast
the votes", said a group of minors including Shabir Ahmad, 14.
It was because of the massive coercion that the poll percentage witnessed
quantum jump in the late afternoon.
However, in the Pattan township, the entire day witnessed a brisk polling.
the afternoon, the long queus were dominated by the minors from both the
genders. In presence of media persons, some of the polling staffers could
find courage to tell a 15 year old girl Parveena that she is not Mst
widow or a barely 12 year old Raashid that he is not Ahad, father of five
siblings. Some booths where polling staffers enforced their writ had not a
better number of votes polled unlike others. At 1355 hours, while 19C
in the township had the record of polling just 147 of the 1278 votes, 20B
the adjacent room had polled 650 out of 891. So were the strange
at various booths of the seven stations at Palhalan. "The soldiers
lists in their hands are camping in our village that is why I had no
option but to come and get the ink-mark", said a middle aged lady in
the Palhalan booths.
At Pattan, an SOG team was herding the people towards the booth. A good
number of enthusiaistic voters, however, were seen casting their votes. A
year old student Shabir Ahmad was also among them. In the first two hours,
36 voters of 1059 voters from 17A had cast their votes.
The polling booth turned into a battle ground between PDP activists and NC
workers. PDP leader and retired DSP police Wajahat ě Hussain was
greviously injured in a scuffle. Over half a dozen PDP workers and NC
activists were also injured.
Some of the close relatives of NC candidate Rasheed Shaheen belonging to
Sofi mohalla were freely exercising "the franchise of others".
cast around a dozen votes.
PDP candidate Muzaffar Hussain Beig also turned on the spot and refused
to leave the booth till late. He was seen asking the presiding officer to
At Tapper Tai, the position was even worse. Rashtriya Rifles men were seen
barging into the houses of the villagers and directing them to vote.
mediamen proceeding towards them, they melted into the village interior.
The road from Sangrampora onwards towards Sopore were all deserted, with
hardly any movement. Only security forces personnel were seen patrolling
the town. In around a dozen polling booths in cluding Sangrama (67),
Khushhal Mohalla (3), Kralitang, Town Hall ě (77) with 680, 816, 829 and
voters respectively either no vote was polled in the first three hours or
number of polled votes did not enter the second digit.
Further ahead at Shalpora and Mazbugh, Rashtria Rifles and JAK rifles
personnel were seen flocking the people towards the booths. In both
no vote was polled in first three hours.
Polling was very thin in the Baramulla town also. At Kanlibagh (67), (68)
(70), of the 858, 815 and 600 votes respectively, 14, two and four votes
polled in the first three and a half hours.
KT NEWS SERVICE
SRINAGAR, Sep 18: Describing today's election as a "blot on Indian
democracy", All Parties Hurriet Conference today urged government to
concede defeat and consider these elections as a referendum, which
clearly depicted that "people of the Kashmir have once again
rejected elections and they want nothing less than freedom".
Addressing a press conference here this evening, senior APHC
leader Mohommad Yasin Malik said it was once again proved that India was
not a democracy as it claims but "it was a police state and believes
organised terrorism by its armed forces".
He said despite the efforts by the army, para-military forces and
police, they were unable to coerce people at majorty of places as the
"prefered death rather than vote".
Appealing the international community to urge India and Pakistan to
solve the Kashmir problem at the earliest, Malik requested the
international community to take cognizance of alleged coercion by armed
forces and impress upon India to shun the rigid attitude and solve this
Seriously condeming the death of 14 persons killed allegedly by
security forces, Malik said India tried to organise the "election
cajole the international community, but the killing of innocents, who
against the armed coercion, proved that people want nothing less than
Giving details about the deaths allegedly at the hands of the
security forces, the JKLF chairman said Altaf Hussain was killed by
forces at Hiagam in Baramulla district, when he refused to cast his
vote. At Silwat, Ali Mohommad Kaloo was killed when he refused
to go to polling station, which infurairated the army and they fired at
him killing him on the spot.
In the incident two more civilians were critcally injured who
breathed their last in the SMHS hospital here.
At Diver, Lolaab, two persons were killed when security forces
opened fire on the procession, he said adding at Handwara security forces
the clothes of women when they refused to vote.
"Silwat village does not form part of Baramulla constituency, but
the people were herded by securty forces in trucks to cast the votes in
Baramulla. When they refused they were fired upon killing one person on
spot.", said Malik.
Thanking the people of the Baramulla for" resisting the mighty
security force moves, the senior Hurriet leader said people of the
Kashmir once again proved that they cannot compromise on their right of
determination and will give any sacrifice to achieve the goal."
APHC also showed a video which carried interviews of the people and
also of security forces. It also showed army coercing people to vote.
Besides, it also showed the youth killed allegedly by security forces at
Rediff on the Net (Indian Online News)
Election Special - September 20, 1999
The slaughter of democracy: How the army forced people to vote in Kashmir
by Chindu Sreedharan
This is not an incident that I will forget in a hurry.
At 1630 hours, just half an hour before polling officially ends in Jammu
Kashmir's Baramulla constituency, I am passing through Natnussa, a village
in Kupwara district, on my way to Srinagar. Ahead, I see a small
traversing the mud road that almost runs parallel to the one I am taking.
take a closer look and, for the fourth time today, see election at
There are women and children in the group. Men too, though their number
seems less. Around 70 people altogether. And shepherding them, guarding
them, are Rashtriya Rifles jawans.
The villagers walk slowly, sullenly. Many of the 10 to 15 armymen carry
sticks besides their weapons. There are a few at the head, a few behind --
and the rest walk on the flanks, their sticks at the ready. The villagers
are being taken to the polling station ahead. I have seen animals being
like this, but this is the first time I witness the same treatment being
meted out to humans.
Someone, you see, some bigshot authority wants to show the world that
Kashmir polled decently.
We stop the vehicle. It is too good a shot to miss. Throwing caution to
winds, I take out my camera. Fiaz and Rashid, the journalists with me,
The reaction is swift and violent. Two jawans run towards us and snatch
Fiaz's flash. My camera is already in my bag. We tell them we are from the
press, that this is a public road, that we are allowed to take pictures.
That doesn't help. There is some hollering from their part, and we are
ordered to leave the place. The procession by now has stopped and all
are concentrating on us.
"Aap log yahan se jaye," comes the order, "Or we will show
I wave the Election Commission pass in their face. No dice.
"Give me your camera," orders a jawan and makes a half-hearted
grab for my
bag. I push it behind me, and back towards the vehicle.
"Aap yahan se pyar se jayoge ki nahi?" a junior commissioned
towards us, "Okay, come with us."
Fiaz by now has managed to get his flash back claiming he hasn't shot
anything. We get into our vehicle. As we start moving, more out of
pig-headedness than anything else, we click a couple more shots. There is
wild rush to stop us from the head of the procession. But we beat them to
I look back to see the RR men gesticulating angrily. And the sheep being
to the vote.
I have started from Srinagar early in the morning. The road seems scrubbed
of the overwhelming security presence it boasted on the 16th. Today, only
minimum number of personnel is visible. Apparently in Kashmir, on
days like this the forces are kept off the roads as much as possible to
avoid militant attacks.
Just before Baramulla town I stop to pick up Rashid and Fiaz. Our vehicle,
which sprouts a huge press sticker, is stopped by a group of men. They are
the first of the numerous people who stop my vehicle to complain about how
security personnel are forcing them to vote. All are ex-militants. They
taken into custody yesterday evening, some 300 of them, by the army.
"They released us only this morning. They have ordered us to bring
the people to vote. Their officer told us they would give us time till
and if the people don't vote then, they would come and drag them out. They
said that they would come in the night to check and if we didn't have the
ink mark on our finger they would beat us," a youth tells us.
So will they vote?
"We will not, Inshallah," they claim, "We are being beaten
up for the past
eight years, so what's one more time?"
"The way things are going," adds a youth, "we may pick up
the gun again."
A few kilometres ahead, in Baramulla town, which is observing a
per cent hartal in protest against the poll, we stumble upon a blast site.
bomb had gone off here, near the general bus stand, 10 minutes ago.
no one has been hurt.
"But there is another waiting to explode," a jawan says,
pointing to a
battery, with wires running from it, by the roadside. The blast, a local
person tells us, is the fourth since yesterday.
At the main polling station, there are plenty of policemen but no voters.
The National Conference's Abdul Rasheed Shaheen, the PDP's Muzafer Husain
Beig, Independent Saifuddin Soz or any of the other seven candidates have
attraction here. At the sight of the press, a group suddenly forms and
is a small demonstration with the slogan:
Nare Takbeer Allah Akbar
Hum kya chahte?
Goli, lathi ke sarkar
Nahi chalega baar bar
The infamous Sopore is more deserted than Baramulla. Inside booth number
73B, I meet M Shahin Sheikh and Shah Shah. Their identity cards, they tell
me, have been taken by the BSF; those will be returned only after they
produce the nishan on their finger.
Unfortunately, Shah's name isn't on the voter's list. He cannot vote.
"Please mark my finger then," he tells the polling official,
holding out his
hand, "I came only for this."
The official obliges. "Poor people. Why get them into trouble?"
A little later our vehicle is stopped by a mass of humanity running on to
the road. This is Chaugal, the time 1030. Fifteen minutes ago, there was a
blast here near the polling booth. Now the BSF is turning them out of
houses, and violently. They have been beaten up, the people tell me, some
them showing bruises.
"The army had come in the morning and told us to vote. Now the BSF is
to force us," they say.
I can see BSF men running into houses, waving their sticks, shouting
bahar." When they recognise me for a journalist there is a slight
their energy. Their claim is they are searching the houses to make sure
there is no militant hiding there with another bomb.
"That is a lie," says Mohammad Ismail Hasan, "they are
using that as an
excuse to harass us. They had beaten us up before the blast too for not
And had anyone voted? No, inquiries at the polling station reveal that not
even one of the 822 votes have been cast till 1100 hours.
"Tell the Indians through your paper that we do not want to be part
India," says another, "it is security people like this who make
Handwara is the only place where I find people actually voting. But then,
this is not surprising - the area is the NC stronghold. But even here, I
to hear about the army's interference. As told by Bhat, a 50-plus
"I recently shifted to this place. My vote is 25 miles away from
army came in civil dress in the morning and told me to vote. I told them I
don't have a vote here, but they didn't believe me. They said if I didn't
produce the mark in the evening I would be beaten up. Now I have come here
to see whether I can get them to mark my finger. You see, today is a
and there are no vehicles - so I can't even go to my village to
1230 hours finds me in Kupwara. Here there have been a little bit of
polling. But again, I hear the same story: the people have cast their
not because they want to, but for that ink stain on their finger. A short
walk through the heart of the town, sans anything to identify me as press,
In an alley, an RR major is telling an old man standing with a pail in his
hand: "Put that down and go and vote. You can do it later. If you
His men, meanwhile, are moving into houses and repeating the same. I
"So what I should do?"comes his answer.
What kind of operation is going on here, Major?
"We are making sure that there are no militants or explosive devises
planted," he says, "That is all."
People say you are forcing them to vote?
"People may say anything.. I am an Indian. Be an Indian."
But weren't you telling that old man to vote?
"My office is over there. Please wait for me. We will talk."
I walk on. A little ahead, I meet Fiaz who had gone to another part of the
town. Two RR jawans, he tells me, had waylaid him. Has he voted? No, he
not? Why? Because he did not want to.
"They told me to come with them to the booth and raised their
says, "Whereupon I showed them my identity card. Then they cooled
told me, 'Hum apne duty kar rahe hain.'"
We move on. We hear more complaints, witness more incidents. And finally
stumble on the mother of it all in Natnussa -- sheep being led to the
slaughter of democracy.
BARAMULLA, India, Sept 18 (Reuters) - At
least nine people died in Kashmir
on Saturday as violence erupted in India's parliamentary elections, with
witnesses saying security forces shot dead four people who refused to cast
Army officials denied claims of voters being shot in the Baramulla
constituency, where polling booths were empty in several areas.
The northern Kashmir constituency is one of the six in Jammu and Kashmir
a state racked by separatist insurgency for nearly 10 years -- where
separatists have called for a boycott of the elections.
Apart from voters, three Indian paramilitary men were killed in a shootout
with guerrillas in the northern Kashmir constituency, where a landmine
explosion early in the morning set the tone for a day marked by violence
a poor voter turnout of 27 percent.
Two people were shot dead by guerrillas elsewhere, in violence which took
Saturday's death toll to at least nine.
At Shilwat, in the Baramulla district, witnesses said the army opened fire
on a group of people when they refused to go to the polling booths.
"Three people were killed and three others were wounded," a
An army spokesman denied the charge, saying: "Local people tried to
the rifle of a soldier and it accidentally went off."
TEENAGE BOY SHOT DEAD
At Hiagam village, hundreds of wailing Kashmiri men, women and children
gathered by the blood-soaked body of 17-year-old Altaf Hussain, who
witnesses said was shot in the back by an Indian soldier when he refused
go to a polling station.
Emotions ran high in the village, where some wept and others shouted
against India and against Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of the
restive, Moslem-majority state.
All polling booths were listed as ranging from "hyper-sensitive to
sensitive" in Baramulla, which has more than 700,000 eligible voters
more than 1,100 polling stations.
Three Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed when guerrillas opened fire
on a camp at Ajas village, officials said.
OFFICIALS DENY SHOOTING ALLEGATIONS
"At least ten innocent civilians were killed by security forces when
refused to vote," Mohamad Yasin Malik, a leader of Kashmir's main
alliance, the All Parties' Hurriyat Conference, told a news conference.
A police spokesman denied the allegations.
"Barring a few minor election-related incidents, polling was
peacefully today," he said. "While a few explosions were caused
militants, they could not approach the polling stations to interfere with
the voting process."
Unidentified militants shot dead two people in Sonawari, while a landmine
exploded in Baramulla town without causing damage, police said. Militants
also set off two more blasts in Bandipora, some 45 km (30 miles) from
Baramulla, they said.
Officials in Jammu, winter capital of the state, said Baramulla had a
turnout of above 27 percent. In one segment, Sangrama, only 2.5 percent of
voters cast their ballots.
Voter turnout in Srinagar, the state's summer capital which went to the
polls in the first of five phases of voting which began on September 5,
barely 15 percent.