ISLAMABAD  -  A complete shutdown was observed in Indian-occupied Kashmir on Monday to protest enactment of a drama underway in the name of municipal and panchayat elections in the territory.

The first phase of the urban local body elections saw a bleak voter turnout as only 8.3 per cent eligible voters in occupied Kashmir Valley came out to cast vote on Monday. Polling stations wore a deserted look due to people’s boycott of the farcical elections.

According to Kashmir Media Service, call for the strike had been given by the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik and supported by other organisations including the High Court Bar Association. The four-phase polls for the so-called local bodies in occupied Kashmir are scheduled to commence.

The authorities have placed Hurriyat leaders including Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Ghulam Ahmed Gulzar, Hakeem Abdul Rasheed, Mukhtar Ahmed Waza, Muhammad Yasin Attai and Syed Imtiaz Haider, besides several activists under house arrest or in detention to ensure smooth conduct of the polling. Various Sikh bodies including Sikh Intellectuals Circle, International Sikh Federation and Sikh Students Federation are also boycotting the elections.

Meanwhile, curfew-like restrictions WERE imposed across the territory. Indian army, police and paramilitary forces haD been put in riot gear to deal with anti-India protests. Dozens of check-posts haD been established in Dalgate, Gupkar Road, Maulana Azad Road, Residency Road, Amira Kadal, Budshah Bridge, Jahangir Chowk and Batamaloo areas of Srinagar. Forces intensified frisking all across the Valley. Besides, motorbikes and private vehicles, pedestrians WERE being subjected to vigorous checking at checkpoints.

Over 400 companies of paramilitary forces WERE deployed in Held Kashmir for the election duty. The authorities haD suspended mobile internet services in most parts of Kashmir Valley including Kupwara, Bandipora and Baramulla districts.

Interestingly, polling stations were wearing a deserted look in all wards of central and north Kashmir districts during the first phase of municipal elections.

According to the Election Commission, a total of 1283 candidates will be contesting in the 422 municipal wards.

ELECTION and KASHMIRIs’ WOES

Hurriyat forum led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq while strongly denouncing the house detention of its Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Indian-occupied Kashmir has rejected the election drama being staged by India in the territory to mislead the international community.

According to Kahsmir Media Service, the Hurriyat forum in a statement issued in Srinagar said, “A heavy contingent of Indian forces arrived at Mirwaiz’ residence during wee hours and placed him under house arrest.” The spokesman said that the policy of force being used against people to keep them away from the religious practices and gatherings had further exposed their repression.

The Hurriyat spokesman also condemned fresh arrest spree launched by the troops across the length and breadth of Kashmir aimed at instilling fear among the population.

The spokesman said, “Whenever election drama is enacted in Kashmir, it brings endless miseries and sufferings to the people in the form of unending frisking at every nook and corner, cordons and searches. Youth are arrested and lodged in police stations, massive crackdowns are launched on the resistance of leaders and huge deployment of forces is made to thrust the so-called polls on people who have already rejected this military exercise,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement (JKSM) Chairman Zaffer Akbar Butt, in a statement, rejected the election drama in Kashmir and said that the people of Kashmir were striving for the right to self-determination.