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Sopore, B’la towns, Palhallan stick to boycott

Firdous Hassan

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Photo: M Dawood/KM

Sopore, Apr 11: The separatist bastions in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district chose to stay away from polls while a moderate voting was witnessed in rural areas of the district in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.

The state government led by Governor Satya Pal Malik had arrested most of the separatist leadership months ahead of the polls.

However, the impact of their boycott call was still felt in their bastions in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district including Palhallan, Sopore and Baramulla towns, where majority of the people didn’t turn to polling booths.

 

In Palhallan, which has a population of over 15,000 people, a huge deployment of forces was seen around five polling booths and streets of the entire village.

On either end of the road leading towards the village from the highway, paramilitary CRPF in tens had occupied the entry and exit points of the streets.

The main gates of all the five polling stations were closed where every person entering the booth was thoroughly frisked before being allowed to head towards the polling booth.

Only 44 votes were polled out of 3,979 voters in five polling booths of the village till 12 pm.

Later, a group of youth appeared from one of the streets and pelted stones at the forces guarding the polling booth Palhallan (A).

Locals said that many youth in the village had faced police cases and were slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) in the recent years.

“Even now scores are detained. So people won’t majorly vote for any politician. Those who have voted are not civilians but workers of political parties,” said a youth, who didn’t reveal his name.

Sopore, home town of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, equally looked deserted where the lowest voter turnout of 4.35 per cent was recorded during the day.

In the main town, only 58 voters turned to cast their vote out of 7,303 electorates in 11 polling booths till noon.

“We have two booths Baghat (A) and Tawheed Bagh (A) where no vote has been polled yet. People in the town and some of the nearby villages completely boycott polls,” said a polling officer in one of the polling booth in Boys Higher Secondary School Sopore.

Not a single vote was cast till 6 pm in all the five villages including Dooru, Reshiabad, Yamberzal Payeen, Yadipora and Jageer, hometown of Afzal Guru.

As per an official statement, 4,864 out of 1,11,928 votes were cast in Sopore which is the lowest turnout among all constituencies for Baramulla seat where nine candidates were in fray.

Many polling booths in Baramulla town too recorded nominal voting on Thursday as majority of the areas witnessed a shutdown on Joint Hurriyat’s call.

At polling booth Arimpora, only five votes were cast till 2pm out of 449 electorates.

Similarly, in polling booth Azadgunj, 23 votes had been cast out of 1135 electorates till 2 pm.

Meanwhile, a moderate voting was witnessed elsewhere in the district particularly in rural areas where people had come out to vote for basic amenities.

In Singhpora village of Pattan area, voters had lined up in three polling booths to cast their vote.

The villages this Lok Sabha elections witnessed brisk polling as compared to the 2014 elections.

“We are forced to use water from the nearby stream and our demands have not been heard so far. We hope this time our demands will be met as many are casting their vote,” said an elderly man, Abdul Rehman Malik from Singhpora.

Similar scenes were witnessed in Hanjiwera, Tangmarg and Pattan, where men and women had queued outside polling booths right from the early hours.


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Lead Stories

UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman

Press Trust of India

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”

“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.

On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.

“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.

Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.

“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.

The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.

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Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York

Press Trust of India

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NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.

The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.

Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.

The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.

, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.

Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.

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Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report

Agencies

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The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.

The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.

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