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55 percent polling in fourth phase of Jammu and Kashmir polls

By Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
Last updated on: December 07, 2008 20:08 IST
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Jammu and Kashmir's Chief Electoral officer told media-persons that the average polling for the 18 constituencies that went to the polls on Sunday was 55 percent.

Moderate to brisk polling marked the fourth phase of state assembly elections in the north Kashmir Baramulla and central Kashmir's Budgam district on Sunday.

Although a heavy voter turn out of 51 percent was recorded from the border Uri constituency, major towns like Baramulla and Sopore recorded low voter turnout. In central Kashmir's Budgam district, however, the polling was brisk with Chare-sharief recording 43 percent, Khan Sahib constituency had 38 percent, Beerwa had 35 percent, Budgam had 34 percent and Chadoora had 34 percent till late afternoon on Sunday.

People had queued up outside the polling stations in the five constituencies of Budgam district since early morning where enthusiastic voter participation marked Sunday's poll. There were anti-poll protest in the north Kashmir, Baramulla and  Sopore during Sunday's polling.

At Sopore police and paramilitary and Central Reserve Police Force troopers intervened with batons and tear smoke to disperse the anti-poll protestors shouting pro-freedom slogans.

Five local journalists working for various national and international agencies were beaten up by the security forces in the Sopore town while covering the protests. Three journalists including Mukhtar Ahmad were referred to Srinagar hospital for treatment.

The separatist coordination committee which comprises of representatives of both groups of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, bar association and local traders had called for poll boycott and a march to Baramulla and Budgam, the headquarters of the two districts which went to polls today.

The authorities imposed curfew like restrictions in capital Srinagar and some other towns to thwart the march and protests. However, because of the ensuing Eid festival, the restrictions were relaxed late in the afternoon.

This was done to allow shoppers to make purchases for Eid which falls on Tuesday.
Groups of protestors, however, took to streets in old city areas and engaged the security forces in stone pelting immediately after the restrictions were withdrawn.

The security forces resorted to baton charges and tear smoke shelling to disperse the protestors.

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Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar