75.3 pc turnout as violence rocks Mendhar, other areas

A civilian injured during voting in Mendhar being taken to hospital on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor
A civilian injured during voting in Mendhar being taken to hospital on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

84.8 pc voting in Jammu, 30.3 in Kashmir

Sanjeev Pargal/
Fayaz Bukhari
JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Dec 4: Voting turnout in the ongoing Panchayat elections continued to hover around 75 percent with seventh phase of polling held today across 341 Panchayats in 12 districts of the State also recording 75.3 percent votes. Jammu region accounted for 84.8 percent and Kashmir 30.3 percent polling.
Voting percentage in Kashmir recorded significant jump to 30.3 as compared to sixth phase when just 17.3 percent electorates had exercised their right to franchise while it slightly came down in Jammu region to 84.8 percent from 85.2 percent of the last phase, official sources told the Excelsior.

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Polling percentage for the State today stood at 75.3 while it was 76.9 in the sixth phase.
However, as compared to generally peaceful polling all over, voting today was marred by several incidents of clashes between the rival contestants in politically sensitive Mendhar tehsil of Poonch district in which more than dozen people were injured and had to be hospitalized. Police used teargas and lathicharge at some places to quell the violence.
Violence also rocked Khawas area of Rajouri and Bishnah in Jammu district.
SSP Poonch Rajiv Pandey told the Excelsior that polling in two Wards of Morha Panchayat in Mendhar was suspended in the afternoon following dispute between the candidates and their supporters. Re-poll will be held in the two Wards, most likely on December 6.
Polling stations worst hit by the clashes between supporters of rival candidates included Gursai Tain, Galuta, Kandi Galuta, Sakhi Maidan, Gohlad Chowki and Harmuta.
Pandey said police had to use mild force to disperse the clashing groups and ensure peaceful polling. Some persons were injured in the clashes but polling went on at most of the places.
Counting was delayed at some of the places in Mendhar but it concluded peacefully in majority of the segments.
Nearly dozen persons were injured during the clashes and five of them were referred to District Hospital, Rajouri from where one of them was shifted to the Government Medical College, Jammu. The injured were supporters of the candidates.
Mendhar tehsil has always been politically sensitive and authorities had deployed para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police in strength in all polling stations. However, the rival groups still indulged in clashes at many places, prompting CRPF and police to act.
By this evening, situation was well under control and counting progressed smoothly.
Clashes notwithstanding Poonch district still recorded second highest turnout of the seventh phase today with 86.6 percent polling, just .1 percent behind Reasi district, which registered 86.7 percent turnout.
In Government High School Majua in Bishnah tehsil of Jammu district, a Sarpanch candidate and his supporters made polling and counting officials hostage after their defeat.
SP Headquarters Romesh Kotwal told the Excelsior that the candidate and his supporters pelted stones at the polling booth and police team causing injuries to half a dozen police personnel.
Kotwal said police have rescued the polling and counting officials and restored normalcy in the area tonight. A case has been registered against the accused.
Late tonight tension erupted in Khawas area of Rajouri during counting of Panchayat election. People pelted stone at the polling station. Tension was on when the last reports came in.
Voting percentage in all six districts of Jammu region, which went to polls today was above 80 percent.
Polling turnout in four other districts stood as Samba 85.5 percent, Jammu 83.7 percent, Rajouri 84 percent and Ramban 83 percent.
In Kashmir division, Kupwara district recorded highest voting percentage at 45 and Budgam lowest of 13.1. Bandipora registered 25.2 percent voting, Baramulla 17.8, Ganderbal 30.9 and Anantnag 15.5 percent.
Sources said counting for majority of 341 Panchayats comprising 341 Sarpanch and 1798 Panch constituencies, which went to polls today, had been completed by midnight tonight. Polling only in few segments was still on.
Polling for the 7th phase of Panchayat polls ended peacefully in Kashmir under tight security arrangements.
Voters were seen queuing outside polling stations in some parts of Kashmir valley despite subzero temperatures in the morning.
In Kupwara that witnessed brisk polling, people were seen queuing up in Polling Stations despite subzero temperatures. In Trehgam area of frontier district Kupwara, large numbers of people including women polled their votes.
A voter, Javed Ahmad, said that they have poor mobile connectively in the area and they expect that the Panchayat will fight for better mobile connectivity. Another voter, Gul Mohammad, said that they are voting for betterment of the village. They said that the village lacks proper drinking water facility and they expect that the Panchayat will resolve the issue.
In Budgam, majority of the polling stations were deserted with people staying away from the poll process.
Authorities had categorized 892 polling stations as hypersensitive in today’s polling including 428 in Kashmir and 464 in Jammu.
As many as 4,75,865 electorates were eligible for Sarpanch constituencies and 3,45,880 for Panch segments while 85 Sarpanchs and 912 Panchs had been elected unopposed, majority of them in the Kashmir valley, in the seventh phase of elections held today.
Remaining two phases of the Panchayat elections will be held on December 8 and 11. However, elections will be completed in all 10 districts of Jammu region on December 8 in the eighth phase and polling will be held only in Kashmir region in the ninth phase on December 11. Voting has already been completed in Ladakh region.
Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said in the Phase-I of Panchayat polls held on November 17, 74.1% polling was recorded across J&K including 64.5% in Kashmir division and 79.4% in Jammu division.
In the Phase-II of Panchayat Polls on November 20, overall 71.1% polling was witnessed across the State with an 80.4% polling in Jammu division and 52.2% in Kashmir division.
He said in Phase-III, the State had recorded a poll percentage of 75.2% including 55.7% in Kashmir division and 83.0% in Jammu division.
In Phase-IV, the State registered 71.3% voting with 82.4% electors exercising their franchise in Jammu division and 32.3% in Kashmir region.
In the Phase-V of Panchayat polls, overall poll percentage was 71.1% across the State with 85.2% polling in Jammu division and 33.7% in Kashmir region.
In the Phase-VI poll percentage in the State stood at 76.9 J&K including 17.3% in Kashmir division and 84.6% in Jammu region.
Civilians, who were injured during clashes today in Mendhar, have been identified as Mohammad Azeem and Shahid Khan of Sakhi Maidan, Karam Dad and Mohammad Imran of Bhara, Haji Tufail of Sakhi Maidan, Mohammad Razzaq of Dharana, Rehman Ahmad of Ari, Wajad Bashir and Amjad Bashir of Sakhi Maidan, Mohammad Saddaq of Kangra Galuta and Mohammad Rehman of Ari.