first_imgGhost highways and young men armed with stones and stationed in alleys were the dominating feature of the Lok Sabha byelection in Budgam district of central Kashmir on Sunday. It’s 11 a.m. at the Bagura High School polling station. Just 40 out of the 1,800 voters arrived early in the morning to cast their vote and left swiftly to avoid being held up by protesters in the vicinity. “The killing of three civilians at Chadoora in March acted as a spark in the powder keg. All five Assembly constituencies in Budgam saw protests all day,” Reyaz Ahmad, a lecturer who decided not to vote, said. At the Parinooo polling station around 11.30 a.m., no voter turned up. However, there was brisk polling in the Gujjar-dominated Khan Sahib area. The morning trickle of voters was followed by massive street protests in the major towns of Chadoora, Beerwah, Charar-e-Sharief and Khan Sahib. Eight persons died here and more than 50 were injured.Polling staff face ordealA presiding officer said many employees failed to reach the polling stations because of stone-throwing. Nissar Azim, a polling staff member, was injured when youth hurled rocks and a petrol bomb on his booth in Budgam. “Since morning, we have faced stone-throwing. Around 1 p.m., we decided to stop polling,” Mr. Azim said.Several vehicles carrying polling officials were damaged. The police fired in the air and lobbed teargas shells to safeguard booths and the polling staff all day. In several areas, the protesters denied the polling staff exit. Around 14 EVMs were damaged. “It’s the first time, since the 1990s, that I saw Budgam erupting this way. The district has become a new source of violence,” Khazir Ahmad, a village elder said.last_img

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