The restive Shopian block in southern Kashmir didn’t witness any election during the fourth phase of panchayat elections on Tuesday as the contestants for its three sarpanch halqas and nine panch constituencies were elected uncontested.
The block is spread over 12 panchayat halqas and 107 panch constituencies.An election official told that said no nominations were received for nine sarpanch halqas and 98 panch constituencies.
The graph of militancy in the southern district has gone up manifold in the past two years, with as many as 42 local (Kashmiri) militants being killed in the district this year alone. Hundreds of civilians who thronged the encounter sites to help militants escape also suffered injuries during this period.
“It all happened after the killing of Burhan Wani that more and more local youth joined various militant outfits,” said Javed Ahmad, a local resident.However, a senior lawyer, requesting anonymity, said there were multiple reasons for young men joining the militant ranks and killing of Wani was a “mere trigger”.
“The rape and murder of Asiya and Neelofar and denial of justice in the gruesome case was one of the main reasons behind youth picking up arms,” he said.
The residents of Shopian stayed away from the recently-held municipal elections as well.
The Shopian municipal committee spread over 17 wards received 12 nominations for 11 wards, while six wards remained vacant. All the candidates who had submitted their nominations were Kashmiri Pandit migrants, belonging to Bharatiya Janata Party, and were elected unopposed.
There were also no elections held for the Kellar block of the district during the third phase of panchayat polls on 24 November.Meanwhile, the entire district witnessed a complete shutdown.
All business establishments and educational institutions remained closed while thin movement of traffic was seen on the roads in main town.
The people across Pulwama district appeared as unresponsive to the ongoing panchayat polls as they were to the municipal elections held last month.
Polling Tuesday began in Chaterpora constituency of Pulwama block, where out of 2254 votes, only 13 were recorded.The Aripal block went uncontested, said an election official.
“Nine male votes and four female votes were recorded in Chaterpora. It seems all voters had come from Jammu and cast 11 out of total 13 votes for the migrant pandit Amit Kaul who was later declared the winner,” he said.At the end of the day, Pulwama district recorded the lowest voter turnout (0.6 per cent), during the fourth phase of the nine-phased panchayat elections.
“We didn’t know there was an election in Pulwama block today. We only knew about shutdown being observed over the recent militant and civilian killings,” said Samiullah Beigh, a resident of Chaterpora.
Pulwama district is considered to be a hotbed of militancy.
In the recently-held urban local body elections, there was no contest in all five municipalities of Pulwama district because no candidate had either filed a nomination or the candidates in fray were elected unopposed.Similarly, there would either be no contest in majority of panchayat halqas and panch wards in the district where there is either one contender in fray or the wards would remain vacant because there is no contestant at all.
Of 11 blocks in Pulwama district, eight were either won by candidates unopposed while others found no contestants.Barring Pulwama, Tral and Kakapora blocks where a minor contest is expected to take place, other blocks including Aripal, Dardsara, Awantipora, Pampore, Litter, Newa, Shadimarg and Achgooze would remain uncontested.
“You can say a minor contest will take place in Diver and Chatergam constituencies of Tral while rest of the areas would go uncontested. Same is true with Pinglana constituency in Kakapora block,” said an official.According to a source, many migrant and local Sikh candidates have filed their nominations for panchayat polls, particularly in three blocks.
“If this wasn’t the case, there would not be any contest,” the source said.