For decades, Pulwama and Shopian districts of South Kashmir carried the tag of being militant hotbeds where Pakistan lent support to locals’ disenchantment. But on Monday, voters turned out in large numbers in the Tral, Pulwama and Shopian assembly segments to exercise their franchise for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370. These assembly segments form part of the Lok Sabha seat of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. Srinagar went to polls along with 95 other constituencies in the fourth phase of elections.

While the consolidated voter turnout for Srinagar seat was approximately 37.98 per cent — the highest since 1996 when it was 40.94 per cent — the three assembly seats of Tral, Pulwama and Shopian fared ever better recording 40.92 per cent, 43.39 per cent and 47.88 per cent polling respectively, as per a statement by the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer of J&K.

‘No mean feat’

Senior J&K officials said this is no mean achievement as it shows that people have stepped out to participate in the electoral process after years of living in the shadow of terrorism especially in South Kashmir, a known sanctuary of militants, which produced top outlaws like Hizbul Mujahideen’s terror poster boy — Burhan Wani. In the past, even if people voted, they would hide or erase the ink on their fingers to avoid getting detected by hardliners, officials added.

J&K officials stated that the geographical boundary of Srinagar LS seat was smaller earlier, incorporating only Srinagar, Budgam and Gandharbal districts. Later, it was redrawn to include whole of Pulwama district and one assembly segment of Shopian district.

Of the 12 assembly segments that constitute Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, the highest poll percentage was observed in Kangan with 58.80 per cent and lowest in Habbakadal with 14.05 per cent, statistics provided by office of Deputy Chief Electoral Officer revealed.

“The democratic spirit has won over any kind of apprehension in the minds of the average Kashmiri voter,” an official said. He said unlike in the past, there was no boycott call or polling booths that drew a blank in voting. The triumph of democracy was also visible since not even a single incident of stone pelting was reported leave aside violence, the J&K officials stated.

Voter trend

Around 17,47,810 lakh electors exercised their franchise. There were 17,140 Kashmiri migrants electors in Srinagar parliamentary constituency 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 turn out of 39.09 per cent. A total 6,700 migrant voters exercised their voting right out of which 213 voted at Delhi, 160 at Udhampur and 6,327 exercised their voting right at Jammu, informed the J&K electoral office. It is also for the first time that the migrant community has turned up for voting in such a large numbers.

In order to ensure inclusive voting, the UT electoral office stated 20 polling booths were managed by women (also called as pink polling stations), 18 of them by specially abled persons and 17 by youth. Also to spread the message about environmental concerns, 21 green polling stations were set up.

To facilitate voter identification, apart from EPIC card, other documents such as Aadhar card, bank passbooks, driving license, PAN card, government employee ID card were also allowed as per Election Commission of India’s directions.

More than 8,500 polling staff were deployed to ensure the election process was smooth, free and fair.