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Civic Polls Round III: Turn for downtown, Tral, Sopore to vote after near-total boycott

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Oct 12: After near-total boycott in the initial rounds of the ongoing municipal elections in the valley, the turnout is expected to be lesser in the third phase of polling to be held on Saturday in most of the volatile old city and parts of north and south Kashmir.
Most areas of uptown and downtown Srinagar, the municipal committees in Tral, Awantipora, Mattan, Pahalgam, Ashmuqam and Seer Hamdan in south Kashmir, and Hajin, Sopore, and Uri in north Kashmir will go to polls in the third phase.
In the previous elections, most of these areas have earned the reputation of being strongly pro-resistance and rigidly anti-election.
In Srinagar, the municipal wards 6 to 15 and 38 to 53 are scheduled to go to polls in the third phase.
In downtown or the old city, these include Khanqah-i-Moulla, Mahraj Ganj, Jamia Masjid, Makhdoom Sahib, Khawaja Bazar, Aaqilmeer, Rouzabal, Doulatabad, Islam Yaarbal, Nawa Kadal, Nawa Bazar, Safa Kadal, Rathpora, Eidgah, Palpora, and Tarabal areas.
These areas constitute the bastion of the pro-freedom camp headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
In uptown, the polling is going to take place in the municipal wards of Lal Chowk, Rajbagh, Ikhrajpora, Mehjoor Nagar, Natipora, Chanapora, Badshah Nagar, Barzulla, Rawalpora, and Hyderpora.
Eight of these 10 wards are a part of Amira Kadal Assembly segment, which saw noticeable turnout in the previous elections, when National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contested.
This time, however, the response of the areas remains to be seen, as both NC and PDP have no direct participation in the elections.
The areas of district Pulwama, in south Kashmir, going to polls in phase III include Tral and Awantipora, which are known for the militants they have been producing and the military response thus invoked.
Mattan, Pahalgam, Ashmuqam, and Seer Hamdan municipal committees in Anantnag district, also in south Kashmir, are also going to polls.
In the first two phases, south Kashmir wards saw more than 90 per cent of the electorate staying away from the polling.
In north Kashmir, Sopore and Hajin belt—both the areas are known for their pro-resistance sentiments—are going to polls.
Sopore is the home town of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani, where the impact of boycott call has always remained the highest in the past.
Only Uri strikes off as the odd one in the list as people there have historically responded well to the elections there.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shaleen Kabra Friday said that in the 3rd Phase, voting will take place at 300 polling stations across the State.
Kabra, in a statement, said that 365 candidates are in the fray for 96 wards of 8 Urban Local Bodies for the 3rd Phase comprising a total electorate of 193990 electors.
“To ensure free and fair elections, observers have been deployed, including micro-observers at 222 hypersensitive polling stations in the Kashmir Division and 19 in Jammu Division,” Kabra said.
The killing of scholar-turned-militant, Mannan Wani, and his associate in an encounter in Handwara on Thursday too may play a role in keeping the people away from polling.
Kashmir on Friday observed a complete shutdown against the militants’ killings, while many areas in north and south Kashmir witnessed protests and clashes among the youth and the government forces.
A police official, however, said that adequate security will be put in place considering the sensitivity of the wards going for polls in the third phase of municipal polls.
From two major regional parties boycotting the polls, zero campaigning to electorate not knowing who they are supposed to vote for, the ongoing polls have registered many firsts.
Most of the candidates have secretly filed nomination with many of them not known to the wards they contest from.


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5 dead, as many missing as avalanche hits Khardung La pass

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Srinagar, Jan 18: Five persons were killed and five others missing after their truck came under an avalanche in the Khardung La area of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, officials said.

The avalanche hit the truck carrying 10 persons at the Khardung La pass in the Ladakh region at 7 am, an official of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) said.

The BRO pressed into service its men and machinery to rescue the passengers of the truck, who were believed to be trapped under the debris, he added.

 

The police, Army and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel had also reached the spot, the BRO official said.

“So far, the bodies of five persons have been recovered from the avalanche site, while a search is on for the other missing persons,” he added.

A bulldozer driver posted at the Khardung La Pass said two tippers and a Scorpio vehicle carrying about 12 persons left towards K-top area early morning to load snow to Leh.

“One tipper was already loaded with snow. However, the mishap occurred when they were loading another vehicle. Suddenly, an avalanche hit them and 10 people in a tipper were buried under the snow,” he said.

A senior police official said, “At least 10-12 people were trapped under the snow and a body of a local resident from Leh has been recovered from the area. Fresh snowfall took place in the area on Thursday and they had gone to collect snow in a vehicle.”

Rescue teams of police, Border Roads Organisation and Jammu and Kashmir Disaster Management Force reached the spot.

A high alert for avalanche was sounded on Thursday by the administration following adverse weather advisory by the Met department.

 

Guv expresses grief, announces Rs 5 lakh compensation

Jammu, Jan 18: Governor Satya Pal Malik has expressed grief over loss of precious lives due to snow avalanche at Khardung La in Leh district, Friday morning.

In his message, a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said, the Governor prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved families in their hour of grief.

Governor has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh for the next of the kin of those killed in the avalanche.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah too expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives in the avalanche.

The party spokesman in a statement said that the duo has urged the administration to expedite the rescue operation and ensure all support to the families of the deceased.

Both Farooq and Omar urged the governor administration to gear up its men and machinery to meet any eventuality in wake of heavy snowfall as predicted by the local MeT officials.

Impressing upon the administration to ensure that people don’t have to suffer due to the vagaries of weather, the duo urged the administration to ensure all arterial and other routes are kept open to avoid any suffering to people.

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Kashmir braces for heavy snow spell from today

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Srinagar, Jan 18: As the meteorological department has predicted another spell of moderate to heavy snowfall in the Kashmir region from Saturday onwards, people in Kashmir are readying themselves by keeping ample stock of food and ensuring proper heating arrangements are put in place.

With the western disturbances likely to affect the region, the officials have also warned of disruption of road, rail and air traffic from Saturday afternoon.

“The western disturbances are most likely to affect the state and its adjoining areas from January 19 to 25, with the main activity between January 20 and 23 and gradual decrease thereafter,” Sonam Lotus, director Meteorological department said.

 

He said moderate to heavy snowfall and rain was expected at widespread places of the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions.

“Some places may receive very heavy rain and snow during this period,” he said, adding that light snowfall would begin at a few places in Kashmir on Saturday morning and increase in intensity and distribution thereafter.

On Friday, Kargil recorded the night’s lowest temperature at minus 19.2 degrees Celsius while neighbouring Leh recorded a minimum temperature of minus 15.6, Met office said.

Drass town was the coldest in the Jammu and Kashmir at minus 27.1.

Srinagar, the summer capital of the state recorded a low of minus 0.7 while the mercury in Qazigund in south Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.7 degrees Celsius.

Gulmarg, the famous skiing resort in north Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 10.0 degrees Celsius while night temperature in Pahalgam – the famous health resort settled at a low of minus 10.3 degrees.

Kokernag town recorded a low of minus 2.0 degrees Celsius while Kupwara town in north Kashmir registered a low of minus 2.8 degrees Celsius last night.

Jammu city recorded 5.3  degrees Celsius, Katra 6.3, Batote 2.5, Bannihal 0.7 and Bhaderwah minus 0.8 degree Celsius.

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Twin grenade attacks in city-centre, Shopian

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Srinagar, Jan 18: Less than 24 hours after the Rajbagh grenade attack, militants on Friday carried out two more grenade attacks on government forces in Kashmir, including one in the city-centre Lal Chowk here.

Militants lobbed a grenade at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bunker at Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) in Lal Chowk in the afternoon, a police official said.

The grenade exploded on the roadside, he said, adding that no one was hurt in the attack.

 

A private car parked on the roadside was partly damaged due to the explosion, the official said.

Window panes of a few shops on either side of the road were also damaged because of the blast.

This was the second such attack on government forces in Srinagar within 24 hours.

Earlier on Thursday, militants had hurled a grenade on police personnel at Zero Bridge here, resulting in injuries to three policemen.

In another incident on Friday, militants lobbed a grenade at a police camp in Gagran village of Shopian district of south Kashmir. However there was no report of loss of life or damage to property.

A police spokesperson came out with the following statement later in the day: Police had to attend two “terror” crime spots today following the reports of grenade attack by militants at Srinagar and Shopian. Officers from the local police units immediately reached to both the crime spot this (Friday) afternoon to initiate the investigation in the matter.

“While attending the crime spot, officers did not receive any report pertaining to the loss of life or property. Police has registered cases for both the incidents. Officers from the local police units are at work to establish the full circumstances which led to these incidents. If you have any information that can assist police in its investigation, you may kindly contact Police,” the spokesperson said.

The three attacks come days ahead of the Republic day and is likely to push government forces for taking even more stringent ‘security’ arrangements, especially in and around the city.

Later in the day, militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed the responsibility of the grenade attacks in Srinagar and Shopian.

A spokesperson of JeM Mohammad Hassan in a statement to news agency GNS claimed that three forces personnel were injured in the attack at City Centre Lal Chowk.

He also claimed that several forces personnel were critically injured in the attack at Gagran in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

The Kashmir Monitor also received a phone call from one Hamza Rashid, who said he was the spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front, and claimed the responsibility of the Lal Chowk grenade attack.

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