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J&K Local Body Polls: Voting Begins for 1st Phase, Internet Suspended in South Kashmir | Live Updates

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Srinagar: Internet services have been suspended in South Kashmir and curtailed in other parts as first phase of urban local body (ULB) polls begins in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.

News agency ANI stated that mobile internet speed has been reduced to 2G in some parts of the Kashmir valley in view of the elections, even as many here are “clueless” about the exercise with most of them complaining about not knowing their candidates or even when to vote.

Shoaib Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar from an uptown locality, said people in his ward do not know who the candidates are this time. The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir is going to vote in the first phase.

“Ask anyone here if they know who the candidates are. Everyone will tell you, they have no idea. There is too much secrecy, Ahmad, who works in a private company, said. He alleged the government was only interested in “showing” that an election was held, but not with the conduct of the polls in a proper manner.

A police official had said the prevailing situation in Kashmir does not allow candidates to campaign openly as there is a threat to their lives. While separatists have called for a boycott of the polls, militants have threatened to target persons taking part in these elections.

“The candidates have been given security and most of them have been taken to secure locations, but the situation is such they cannot campaign. The threat is not only from militants, but from mobs as well,” the official had said ahead of elections.

Another official said that polling booths have been secured and a thick layer of security has been thrown around them. Many check-points have been placed in the city where vehicles are being checked. Sniffer dogs are also being used to check vehicles. We are making sure that no untoward incident happens, he said.

The complains of not knowing the candidates were not limited to the city. People in many other areas of the valley expressed ignorance regarding the details of the polls in their wards.

Ishfaq Ahmad, a resident of Ganderbal, which is voting in the last phase on 16 October, said such is the level of secrecy that people are joking that only the candidates themselves know they are standing in the elections.

“We have no idea who is contesting from our ward. There has been no campaign or door-to-door canvassing by anyone so far. Even the government has not put the details of the candidates on the election commission website. There are simply no details anywhere. Only the candidate would know that he is contesting. Perhaps, even their family does not, such is the secrecy, he said. He said “most of the people would boycott the polls”, but relatives and friends of the candidates would exercise their franchise.

Another potential voter here, Khalid said he was earlier excited about voting but now he believes the polls should be put on hold till there is an improvement in the situation. “The government says the situation does not permit them to provide details of candidates. In that case, they should have delayed the polls till there was some improvement. I was excited to vote, especially since EVMs were introduced. However, I do not have essential details for voting, so how and why will I vote?” he asked.

Apart from the secrecy regarding candidates, people in some areas of the city here do not know when to vote. “Forget about who is contesting, we do not even know when is voting taking place in our area,” Ghulam Qadir, a resident of Sekidafar area in the city said. He said he has seen many elections, but “nothing like this has ever happened”.

As many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased urban local bodies (ULB) polls in the state, where nearly 500 over ground workers (OGWs) have been arrested to ensure peaceful polling scheduled to begin next week after a gap of eight years, officials said on Saturday.

While the first phase of polls is being held on Monday, the second phase will be conducted on Wednesday, third phase on October 13 and last phase on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.

As many as 244 candidates have been elected unopposed, majority of them from Kashmir valley where candidates braved militant threats to take part in the democratic exercise. Two mainstream state parties — National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party — have boycotted the polls over the challenge to the validity of Article 35-A of the Constitution.

CPI(M) and BSP are the other two parties which have also stayed away from the municipal polls, leaving the BJP and the Congress in a direct contest.However, the two parties cannot ignore the resurgent National Panthers Party (NPP) especially in Jammu region and independent candidates.

“A total of 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased elections. Majority are trying their luck from Jammu province with 2,137 candidates, 787 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh region, an official of the state election commission told PTI after the last date for withdrawal of candidature in the last phase ended on Friday.

Meanwhile, Moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was placed under house arrest ahead of the first phase of local body polls. On October 2, police took Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik into preventive custody. Hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani continues to be under house detention.

| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti





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