Democracy triumphs again in J&K; Anantnag PC creates history, registers around 53 pc polling


ANANTNAG: In a historic display of democratic fervor, electors in Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency turned out in a remarkable numbers to vote peacefully in the sixth phase of country-wide General Elections to 18th Lok Sabha registering a significant voter turnout of around 53 %.
“The significant participation of voters, including first timers, women and senior citizens stands testament to strength and resilience of democracy in the Union Territory”, stated Chief Electoral Officer, Pandurang K Pole while elaborating on details in this regard.
With conclusion of the Lok Sabha Polls in the UT, Jammu and Kashmir has registered an unprecedented 58.11 per cent polling in its five Parliamentary Constituencies which is highest in the past 35 years, added the CEO.
“It is the highest turnout for these five seats in the last 40 years. The previous high was 49 per cent recorded in 2014, while the turnout in 1996 was 47.99 per cent,” Pole added, reports PTI.
He said the Surankote, Rajouri and Budhal Assembly segments recorded the highest turnout of 68 per cent.

LG congratulates people, stakeholders on historic turnout

SRINAGAR: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Saturday congratulated the people and all the stakeholders on historic turnout in Anantnag-Rajouri Parliamentary Constituency polls.
He also commended Jammu Kashmir Police and Security forces for elaborate security management during polls in all five Parliamentary Constituencies of the Union Territory.
In a tweet, the Lt Governor said:
“I congratulate the people for historic turnout in today’s polls for Anantnag-Rajouri Parliamentary Constituency. I compliment all stakeholders for successful conduct of this huge exercise, especially voters for their unique contribution in strengthening democratic values.Overall, there has been 58 per cent polling in J&K UT for 5 Parliamentary Constituencies in 5 phases, which is a record turnout and the entire process was conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner. Congratulations to the JKP & Security forces for elaborate security management”.

The Kulgam Assembly segment recorded the lowest poll percentage of 32.
Pole said the polling was by and large peaceful, with no violence reported from anywhere.
The peaceful conduct of polling in the last phase in Jammu and Kashmir witnessed around 53% voting in the districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Poonch besides Shopian and Rajouri districts partly. Fractional correction is expected in the percentage figure, as at some of the Polling Stations voting continued even after 6.00 pm and many polling parties are yet to reach the Reception Center.
This remarkable participation marks a new era of peace and civic engagement in these districts. This year’s elections were conducted without any boycott calls or intimidation, exhibiting voters’ unwavering belief in the power of ballot. Not a single polling station reported zero voting, a testament to the wide spread enthusiasm and commitment to the democratic process.
The corresponding percentage for last Lok Sabha election in 2019 was 9.70 %.
Since eruption of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, the highest ever poll percentage in Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency, was recorded in year 1996 with 50.02%. Hence the poll percentage 53 % is highest in last 35 years, since eruption of militancy in J&K.
The CEO attributed the success and high voter turnout to certain factors including improved security, law and order environment in last 4-5 years, mobilization by 20 candidates and political parties, election awareness through SVEEP activities and more importantly voters strong belief that it is the Ballot which can lead to sustainable development (aman, tarraki aur khush-hali).
The polling took place in 2338 polling stations across the Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency with live webcasting at all the polling stations. Voting started at 7 a.m. across the PC with long queues of enthusiastic voters waiting to cast their ballots.
Demonstrating the spirit of democracy the voters of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Rajouri and Poonch districts showed up in record numbers to cast their votes in a significant show of faith in the election process. Since beginning of the poll at 7.00 am, the voters were seen standing in long queues at many polling stations across all the 5 districts. Elderlies, ladies, youths were seen enthusiastically exercising their right to vote in a peaceful environment.
The Chief Electoral Officer and other senior officers of election department monitored the progress of voting in Phase-VI across the Parliamentary Constituency from the Union Territory level Command and Control Center established at ICCC- HMT, Bemina and CEO Office, Srinagar.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Command and Control center had been working 24 x 7 at Srinagar as well as Jammu since 16 March to ensure free, fair and inducement-free elections.
After two hours of polling, 8.98% voting was recorded in the constituency at 09:00 am; 23.34 % at 11.00 am, 35.61% at 01:00 pm; 44.88% at 3:00 pm while 51.35 % polling was recorded by 5:00 pm. Assembly segment wise highest poll percentage was observed in Surankote Assembly segment with around 68.00 % and lowest in Kulgam Assembly segment with around 32 %. Budhal and Rajouri assembly segments have also recorded higher poll percentage.
Around 18,36,576 electors had been enrolled for casting their vote in this Parliamentary Constituency. More than 9,000 polling staff performed poll duty. The polling continued till 6.00 pm while at few polling stations of Poonch- Rajouri and other areas, it continued till the last voter in queue exercised his franchise. At every polling station, basic minimum facilities of water, electricity, toilet, ramp, verandah/ waiting room had been made.
The authorities have ensured that wheelchairs and volunteers are provided to the needy as and when required. All the polling stations were adorned in all colours of festivities.
Pertinently, Chief Election Commissioner, Rajiv Kumar, during his visit to J&K in March, had stressed on ensuring huge voter participation of all sections of the society and efforts were made earnestly to make sure the same.
Additionally, in order to ensure inclusive voting, 17 polling booths managed by women (also called as pink polling stations),15 managed by specially abled persons and 8 polling stations managed by youths were established. Also to spread the message about environmental concerns, 15 green polling stations were set up.
To facilitate voter identification, apart from EPIC card, other documents such as Adhar card, Bank Passbooks, Driving License, PAN Card, Government employee ID card were also allowed. Media facilitation was done through special passes for more than 600 journalists.
“The democratic spirit has won over any kind of apprehension in the mind of the common Kashmiri voter. Despite terror incidence of Pahalgam, Shopian, Surankote-Mendhar in Poonch, the voters were seen coming in large numbers to vote. Anti-national elements failed to deter voters from exercising their constitutional rights. All candidates and parties were able to reach every nook and corner of the constituency during extended campaigning period from 5th to 23rd May. Meticulous planning and execution of SVEEP activities was done and it ultimately resulted in a significant increase in the voter turnout. SMS blast on mobile though telecom companies, hoarding, flex, nukkad natak, street play, painting competition, various sports competitions, rallies and related events resulted into an increase overall voter turnout. The spirit of democracy has triumphed and not even a single incident of stone pelting or any kind of violence has been reported on poll day.”, maintained the CEO.
The enthusiasm among the political parties, who are an important stakeholder in the democratic process can be gauged from the fact that a record number of applications regarding various permissions have been received on the Suvidha portal. The campaigning in Anantnag PC had been violence free witnessing historic participation of voters.
There were more than 26,000 Kashmiri migrant electors in the PC who opted for voting at 26 Special Polling Stations established at Jammu (21), Udhampur (01) and Delhi (04). At these 26 special polling stations, there was voter turnout of 40% at Jammu, around 50 % at Udhampur and 53 % at Delhi. It is for the first time that the migrant community has turned for voting in such a large numbers.
The CEO has expressed gratitude towards all the voters who came in large numbers to cast their votes despite of weather challenges. He also appreciated work done by all the Polling personnel including security personnel deployed in the election process, police officers, ARO, RO and District Election Officers for their service in making the ongoing elections successful.
Last highest voter turnout was 49.58 % in year 2014. This year’s poll percentage is quite high compared to the earlier poll percentage.

Serpentine queues in South Kashmir, kin of terrorists cast ballot

Border villages enjoy peaceful voting

Shopian/NOWSHERA: In a remarkable display of resilience and commitment to democracy, the residents of villages that had long been deprived of polling due to terrorist threats and separatist-sponsored boycott calls turned out in large numbers to cast ballots in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha polls on Saturday.
Braving scorching sun, people stood in serpentine queues and patiently waited to participate in the electoral process — first major battle since the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories in August 2019.
A segment of Shopian is part of the redrawn Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency which went to polls in the sixth phase on Saturday. Moderate to brisk polling was observed after the start of the voting across the constituency at 7 am.
One particularly striking moment was when the family members of active terrorists were spotted at polling booths exercising their right to vote.
Mushtaq Ahmed Reshi, the father of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Junaid Reshi, was seen at a polling booth in Shopian’s Beminapura casting his ballot.
He was full of enthusiasm as he talked to reporters, expressing his belief in the power of democracy and the idea of India, emphasising his determination to participate in the democratic process.
Following closely behind was former separatist Mukhtar Waza, who also cast his vote, marking a significant shift in attitudes within the community.
The turnout in these villages not only defied the looming threat of terrorism but also showcased a strong commitment among people to upholding the principles of democracy. As residents lined up to make their voices heard, the atmosphere was full of a sense of empowerment and hope for a better future.
The enthusiasm among the voters was such that people with disabilities also made it to the polling stations to cast their ballot instead of availing the facility of home voting.
“Voting is our democratic right and we are eagerly participating in the polling process with a hope that our representative will highlight our problems and seek their resolution,” Abdul Ahad (72) told PTI at a polling station in Nadimarg.
He alleged that the villagers are suffering because of lack of basic facilities like electricity, water and proper roads.
“The talk of development is only on papers and not on the ground. The government should focus on the village with poor population,” he said.
Mohammad Sultan, a senior citizen, drew much attention as he came to a polling station riding a horse.
“I am suffering from an ailment and unable to walk freely…By voting, I have fulfilled my responsibility and now it is the term of our representative to take care of our needs which include proper structure of school, improved roads, round-the-clock water and electric supply besides proper healthcare,” he said.
He said most residents are labourers by profession and could not pay hefty electricity bills.
“We used to get bills in the range of Rs 150 to Rs 200 but now the cost of the energy is between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500. It is very difficult for us to pay power bill. If we pay the bills, how could we feed our families?” he said.
The voting in banned Jamaat-e-Islami-dominated areas was also high and one of the senior officials said the courage and determination displayed by the voters in the face of adversity serve as a powerful reminder of the enduring spirit of democracy and the unyielding resolve of individuals to shape their own destiny.
Meanwhile, just metres from the Line of Control (LoC), the polling stations set up for Lok Sabha elections at Sehar and Makri, the last Indian villages in this sector of Rajouri district, came to life with enthusiastic voters making a beeline to exercise their franchise without the fear of cross-border shelling.
“Voting is taking place in a peaceful atmosphere without the fear of the cross-border shelling this time. We have seen worst of the times due to the shelling from Pakistan and our only prayer is continuation of the peaceful atmosphere on the borders,” Ved Prakash, a resident of Makri village, which falls near the border fence, told PTI after casting his vote.
“We are seeing massive development in our areas which were worst hit by cross-border shelling. The government has also provided us underground bunkers for our safety in case of shelling from Pakistan side,” Prakash said.
Prakash said the fear of Pakistani shelling had faded a long ago and “today we are voting for a government which will address our pending issues like road connectivity and better facilities for our school going children”.
“We want a government which will ensure that we live our lives peacefully, without the fear of Pakistani shelling and continue the developmental activities for the upliftment of the border residents,” he said.
Gorakh Nath, a government teacher who was assigned the job of the Booth Level Officer, said moderate to brisk polling was recorded since this morning and the credit for it goes to the peaceful atmosphere.
“This is one of the unique polling stations, having the facility of underground bunkers as well. People have started queuing up to exercise their vote,” he said.
Sunil Choudhary said the village faces water scarcity and wanted the government to address the problem.
Choudhary, a former sarpanch, said the border villages have distinct challenges of their own and needs proper government attention.
“You cannot compare our problems with people in other parts of the country. We are boldly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our jawans guarding the borders of the country which is the beauty of our areas,” he said.
Neesha, a student and the first-time voter, expressed happiness for exercising her democratic right and said “I voted for the overall development of my country and strong government.”
“Earlier, the frequent cross-border shelling have made our lives a living hell. We were unable to concentrate on our studies but now after the ceasefire, we are studying like any other student,” she said.
Dewan Chand said the students had to traverse through the jungle trek to continue their studies after passing class 10.
“We want a higher secondary school and a proper road connectivity so that our children do not face any problem in continuing their studies,” he said.

Displaced KPs vote for homeland, peace in Kashmir

JAMMU: Displaced Kashmiri Pandits turned out enthusiastically in large numbers to vote for the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency at various polling stations in Jammu, seeking peace and the establishment of their ‘homeland’ in the Kashmir Valley.
In the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections for Kashmir’s Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, nearly 52 per cent of the 18.36 lakh eligible voters cast their votes. This includes nearly 40 per cent of the over 27,000 Kashmiri Pandits, who voted at 34 special polling stations set up for the community in Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi. The Kashmiri Pandits, some of whom travelled from outside the Union Territory to vote, emphasized the need for a permanent restoration of peace and the creation of a safe homeland in the Valley.
“I have voted for development and security of the nation. We want to strengthen the government. We want to get back to our homeland, and this government should work towards restoring our homeland with the dignity of our community,” Sushma Bhat, a voter from erstwhile Kulgam district, told PTI.
Sushma, who travelled from Surat to vote for the first time for her home constituency at the Muthi polling station here, highlighted the need for setting up a big smart city to reconnect the community with their roots, emphasizing that such initiatives would foster a sense of homeland.
“There are smart cities set up by the Central government in all the states and Union Territories in the country. One or two big smart cities should be set up for our community in the Valley to reconnect us to our roots. It will be a homeland feeling for us. Nobody should have a problem with this,” she said.
She urged the political leaders to view the issue as a humanitarian concern, advocating for a secure space for the community to return to the Valley.
Like her, Sandeep Koul, whose father and grandfather were assassinated by the terrorists in the 1990s, called for a safe, singular settlement for Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.
“We want a one place settlement where security and safety are paramount. This will restore the dignity of our community, which has been in exile for the past 35 years. We need justice from the Modi government. It is a test for this government,” said Koul, who voted at the Chinore polling station.

Livelihood can wait, voting can’t: Ponywallahs

Pahalgam : They are often seen jostling with each other to pick up tourists for pony rides in this south Kashmir resort but on Saturday the ponywallahs decided to make visitors wait.
They had to cast their vote for the polls to the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir in the sixth round of the seven-phase general elections.
“I left my horses to graze and went to cast my vote as it is my right,” Muzaffar Ahmed, a ponywallah, said and added that others also took time out to exercise their franchise as it was “very essential in a democracy”. Ponywallahs had queued up at polling booths to exercise their franchise, even though the tourist hub of Pahalgam was brimming with visitors. Some rode on horses to reach booths quickly to vote and get back to business.
“We can earn our livelihood any day but we do not get this chance (to vote) every day. We should not waste this chance. Earning our livelihood can wait but voting cannot,” Ahmed said. Voting is important to ensure development, he added.
“We have to vote to choose our representative who can then work to address our issues and bring development,” he said.
Mohammad Rafiq, another ponywallah, said some tourists wanted to pony rides in the morning but “we preferred to vote instead”. “Today we could not let this chance go. Tourists will come again and we will earn again but this is our duty (to vote),” he said.
Rafiq said employment was the main issue for the youth in this elections. “We have many other issues, we want tourism to flourish, we want increase in employment opportunities,” he said.
“People of Kashmir face many issues… these need to be resolved. We want such a representative who can truly represent us. The poor are always neglected. We are the face of the people of Kashmir as we directly interact with tourists, so we want someone who can bring a change for the better,” Rameez Ahmed, another ponywallah, said.
In Kulgam, there was an elderly man who came to a polling station riding a horse.
“I am barely able to offer prayers but I came on a horse to vote as I did not waste my vote,” the man said, proudly displaying his inked finger.
He said that “we have done what was our duty and now it is up to the elected representatives to fulfil their responsibility”. People face several issues like lack of development and rising unemployment, the man added.
Some also stayed away from the electoral exercise, saying there was no benefit.
“There is no benefit of voting. Those who get elected do not work for the people. They only care about themselves. Our issues remain unaddressed,” a local tea vendor in Pahalgam said.

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