Kulgam: Voters in Kashmir have defied the boycott call given by separatists but two villages in this South Kashmir constituency have en masse decided not to take part in the democratic process alleging discrimination in development and harassment by security forces.
Out of 4,521 eligible voters, just one vote was cast at six polling stations of Bugam and Panivah falling in Kulgam Assembly segment in the first three hours of polling.
"We do not have anything to do with the boycott call of Hurriyat Conference. It is the voice of our conscience that we should not vote as our area, which has a population of 15,000 souls, has been discriminated against in every respect during the last 18 years," Ali Mohammad, an elderly person, said outside the Bugam polling station.
He said that nearby Balosa village was granted a new administrative unit while Bugam was "ignored".
"Balosa has just 4,000 population. What was the criterion for giving the niabat (sub-Tehsil) to that area?" he asked.
Abdul Gaffar, a local resident, claimed that the area has been fighting for upgradation of the local middle school to high school level for the last 18 years.
"Every time we asked the authorities about the matter, they said our middle school is in the list of schools to be upgraded but every time we were ignored when the list was issued," he said.
The youth were particularly agitated alleging that several youth were picked up by security forces early in the morning. "This harassment takes place whenever there is an election. What is the crime of the youth?" Umar, a local resident, said.
The security forces personnel deployed at these six polling stations could be seen relaxing in the winter sun.
"Our duty is to maintain law and order. It is the choice of the people whether they vote or not," Constable Ghulam Hassan said.
The senior security officials, however, interacted with the local elders and urged them to counsel the youth not to disrupt law and order in the area.
While Bugam and Panivah remained peaceful till noon, youth in some adjoining areas - where separatist groups still wield some influence - resorted to stone-pelting on security forces. The miscreants were chased away and there was no disruption in the polling in these areas.