Large scale violence in Poonch during polls, 2 candidates among 24 injured; 6 FIRs lodged

Supporter of a candidate injured in clash being shifted to hospital in Mendhar on Saturday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor
Supporter of a candidate injured in clash being shifted to hospital in Mendhar on Saturday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

Highest 72.7 pc voting in 8th phase for 15 seats in Jammu
‘Voting over in 140 seats except re-poll, counting on Dec 22
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Dec 19: Large scale violence, confined to Poonch district, broke out in the eighth and final phase of the District Development Council (DDC) elections held on 15 seats of Jammu region today in which more than two dozen persons including two candidates, one of them a woman, were injured prompting police to register six First Information Reports (FIRs) at Mendhar police station in which some contestants are also likely to be booked, even as the voting percentage touched all time high at 72.7 in all the phases.
In rest of nine districts of Jammu region, polling remained peaceful barring few complaints and counter complaints by some candidates and their supporters.
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Notwithstanding five major incidents of violence involving candidates and their supporters in Mendhar and Mankote constituencies of Poonch, the district recorded highest turnout of 83.58 percent among 10 districts of the region today while lowest 60.49 percent voting was registered in Udhampur district. Overall voting percentage in Jammu and Kashmir in today’s phase stood at 50.9.
Voting percentage in eight other districts was 81.9 (Reasi), 77.3 (Rajouri), 73.9 (Kathua), 73.6 (Samba), 73.4 (Kishtwar and Ramban), 70.3 (Doda) and 69.3 (Jammu). With today’s polling, the DDC election process has been completed in all 140 seats of Jammu region except three polling stations of Mendhar-B where re-poll is scheduled for December 21. Counting for all seats will take place simultaneously on December 22.
“A total of six FIRs have so far been registered in connection with today’s violent incidents at Mendhar police station,’’ SSP Poonch Ramesh Angral told the Excelsior and said all incidents are being investigated. On whether some candidates contesting the DDC elections have also been named in the FIRs, Angral said their involvement is under investigation and their names will be mentioned in the FIRs if they are found involved in indulging or instigating violence.
Congress candidate from Mendhar-B constituency Parveen Sarwar Khan and Independent candidate from Mankote Choudhary Mohammad Ashraf were among 14 persons who have been admitted in the Sub District Hospital (SDH) Mendhar, Block Medical Officer (BMO) Dr Parvez Khan said. Ten other persons had minor injuries.
Sources said condition of Independent candidate Choudhary Mohammad Ashraf is serious and he is being referred from the SDH Mendhar to Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu. Condition of rest of the injured is stable.
Reports said Parveen Sarwar Khan, Congress candidate from Mendhar-B, where re-polling on three booths has been ordered by the State Election Commission on December 21, along with her supporters was going towards Chote Shah Peer Baba Dargah this morning when supporters of Independent candidate Wazid Bashir allegedly attacked her and her supporters.
They pelted stones on the vehicles of Parveen Khan. A Personal Security Officer (PSO) allotted to her fired three shots in air to disperse the stone pelters. Parveen Khan and her two PSOs were injured in the attack and their two vehicles including one Scorpio and an Echo were damaged. The injured have been hospitalized. Police parties reached the spot to defuse tension.
Three clashes took place among supporters of Independent candidate Choudhary Ashfaq Ahmad and Zeeshan Rana son of former MLA Javed Rana of National Conference, who were contesting from Mendhar-C DDC constituency where polling was held today. The clashes took place at Salwa Higher Secondary School, Kalaban and Jughal polling stations with both sides pelting stones at each other. Fits and blows were also exchanged freely.
Thirteen supporters of the two candidates were injured in the three clashes.
At village Chajla in Mankote DDC constituency of Poonch district, where polling was also held today in the last phase, Congress candidate Imran Choudhary (son of Zaffar Choudhary) and his supporters clashed with Independent candidate Choudhary Mohammad Ashraf.
Ashraf and his supporters were beaten-up by the Congress activists causing them injuries. A total of six persons including Ashraf were injured and hospitalized. Ashraf is being referred to the GMC Jammu in view of his serious condition.
Five vehicles were damaged in the clash and there were reports that Ashraf was held hostage for some time.
Three to four candidates and their supporters from Mendhar-B constituency held protests in Mendhar demanding immediate arrest of those responsible for attack on Parveen Sarwar Khan.
Another protest was held at Mendhar by Independent candidate Choudhary Ashfaq (Mendhar-C seat) against NC leader Javed Rana alleging that the latter indulged in booth capturing and other irregularities in favour of his son Zeeshan Rana, who is contesting the election.
The turnout of 72.7 percent for 15 seats of Jammu region today was highest in all eight phases of the DDC elections, the figures released by the State Election Commission said.
Turnout in the region in first phase of the polls was 64.2 which kept rising and went up to 65.5 in second phase, 68.8 in third, 69.3 in fourth before declining at 66.6 in fifth but again increased to 68.5 in sixth and stood at 71.9 in seventh phase.
The seats which went to polls today include Khour in Jammu district, Samba-A and Samba-B (Samba), Keerian Gandyal (Kathua), Ramnagar-I and Ramnagar-II (Udhampur), Trigam and Kishtwar (Kishtwar), Assar (Doda), Rajgarh (Ramban), Reasi (Reasi), Darhal and Sunderbani (Rajouri) and Mendhar-C and Mankote (Poonch).
Fate of many bigwigs was sealed in the ballot boxes after today’s polling including Jagjivan Lal, former Minister, from National Conference, who was in the fray from Reasi Territorial Constituency, former Member Parliament and Legislative Assembly Speaker Mirza Abdul Rashid’s son Parvez Mirza, also from National Conference and retired Deputy Commissioner and BJP candidate Iqbal Malik (both Darhal in Rajouri district), Zeeshan Rana, son of former MLA and National Conference leader Javed Rana on Mendhar-C seat, former Member Parliament and Minister Choudhary Lal Singh’s wife Kanta Andotra, who is also ex MLA, from Keerian Gandyal segment of Kathua district and BJP’s Dr Shweta Singh, who challenge her, besides other candidates.
In Mendhar-C and Mankote segments, several polling stations along the Line of Control (LoC) within shelling and firing range of the Pakistan army went to polls today where the voting concluded peacefully with no ceasefire violation reported from Pakistan side.
The Polling Stations located on the LoC include Sheep Office Balnoi, Middle School Nar Balnoi, Middle School Lower Balnoi, Middle School Nar Mankote, Middle School Taien, Middle School Patri and Narota.
A total of 2.25 lakh votes were cast in the Jammu region today for 15 seats for which the State Election commission had set up 675 polling stations. Of 2.25 lakh votes, 1.16 lakh were male and 1.09 lakh females.
Along with 15 DDC seats, voting was also held today for by-elections to Sarpanch and Panch constituencies in which huge turnout was witnessed and majority of results had been declared by onight.