Boycott, violence mars last phase of polling in J&K

A near boycott and violence marred the last phase of Lok Sabha elections in restive south Kashmir on Monday as majority of polling booths registered zero per cent polling.

Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency which comprises four restive districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian, went to polling in three phases. In the first leg Anantnag district voted on April 23 while in the second phase voting was held in Kulgam district on April 29.

The twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian, that saw majority of encounters between militants and security forces since 2016, went to polls in the last phase on Monday and most of the polling booths wore deserted look as people preferred boycott over ballot.

At Imam Sahib area of Shopian, where three militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, including the last surviving member of Burhan Wani group - Lateef Ahmed alias Lateef Tiger, were killed last week, dozens of youth were on roads to ensure nobody votes, reports said.

As per official reports, more than 100 polling stations registered zero voting while as many others registered voting in between ten to 50. 

Reports of clashes between stone pelters and security forces were received from several poll bound areas of the twin districts. At Khrew area of Pulwama, three youth sustained injuries during the clashes. At least four youth were injured in Shopian during the clashes that broke out in the evening.

Reports of clashes were also received from Tral, many areas of Shopian and from several villages of Pulwama. Youth resorted to stone pelting which was retaliated with tear gas canisters by forces as they accompanied polling staff returning from the booths. 

Militants hurled a grenade towards Rohmoo polling station in Pulwama. Police said there were no reports of any casualties in the blast. This was the first attack by militants on a polling station during the Lok Sabha election in the state. 

Unknown persons also hurled a petrol bomb at a polling station stationed at government higher secondary school Shopian which exploded outside.

Polling in southern Kashmir was keenly watched within and outside Kashmir, as the region has been on the edge since the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016.

In April 2017 the government fearing violence had to cancel by-elections that were necessitated for the Anantnag seat after PDP chief Mehbooba vacated it to return to state politics.

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