EC postponed Anantnag bypoll due to 'new patterns of violence' in Kashmir
The Election Commission of India claims that it decided to postpone the bypoll to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat because of the “new patterns of violence” that emerged in the Srinagar bypoll.
The manner in which polling booths and officials were targetted in Srinagar is one of the major reasons why the Anantnag bypoll was postponed to May, ECI sources told Catch.
Only a measly 7.14% people could vote in the Srinagar bypolls that were held amid violence.
As many as 8 people were killed and several others injured after security forces fired at protestors. Over 100 security personnel were also injured in the clashes. Around 200 cases of violence were reported from the the entire constituency. This new pattern has left the officials at the ECI worried.
After the violence, the ECI was forced to order repolling at 38 polling booths. According to the official figures, only 1.68 percent voters that is 576 voters of the total 34,169 cast their votes across the 38 polling stations till 2 PM on Thursday. It increased to just 2% by the end of the day.
However, some say EC's decision defies logic as it held repolling in the areas worst affected by the violence in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, even while maintaining that the atmosphere wasn't “conducive” for polling in Anantnag.
This is what former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted:
Situation isn't conducive for polls in Anantnag but it's conducive for a re-poll in the areas worst affected by violence on the 9th. Logic?? https://t.co/EZO3HRuF6e— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) April 11, 2017
Responding to Abdullah's comment, the EC official said that repolling was ordered only in 38 booths in Srinagar whereas polling in Anantnag is an entirely different ball game as there are 1,100 booths to monitor.
The Anantnag bypoll, which was otherwise to take place on April 11, has been postponed to May 25. This came after requests from the political parties and reports from the ground.
“The state authorities apprised us of the precarious situation. There are new patterns which have been observed in the valley, “ the source said.
“Earlier, the boycott call would entail that all those elements who are against the electoral process would stop the people from getting out of their houses. This time it was a totally different scene where anti-social elements attacked polling booths and snatched EVMs,” the source says.
"There were fewer security personnel in comparison to the attacking mobs," the source explained.
On the day of polling and in the run-up to the polls, several polling booths, including schools, came under serious attack in the Valley. There were reports of a school being set ablaze in Budgam, one of the three districts that fall under the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Mobs attacked several polling stations and officials on polling duty in Budgam and Srinagar districts, injuring several officials. Photos of damaged EVMs floating in rivers were seen on several social media platforms.
"Holding the poll in such a situation would have endangered the lives of not just the officials and security personnel but also civilians," the source says.
The 7.14% turnout is also said to have been a result of public disaffection in the Valley. As healthy turnouts were one of the main aspects New Delhi cited as a sign of goodwill in Kashmir, this dramatic fall has come as an embarrassment.