Friday, February 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Voters defy Pak firing, militants
45 to 61 pc polling in Jammu
M. L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 21
Neither the intermittent Pakistani firing nor the panic caused by militants affected polling in the Jammu Lok Sabha constituency where a large number of voters turned up to exercise their franchise today.

The polling percentage in the hilly and border areas was higher than the plains, especially in the three Assembly segments of this constituency.

Five Assembly segments in the border areas of Rajouri, Chamb and Suchetgarh witnessed 59 per cent polling.

While Rajouri topped the list of 61 per cent, followed by 60 per cent each in Chamb and Akhnoor, 55 per cent in Nowshehra, 58 per cent in Suchetgarh and 50 per cent in R.S. Pora.

Over all, between 45 per cent and 48 per cent polling was registered in the 20 Assembly segments of the Jammu constituency, according to Mr Pramod Jain, chief electoral officer.

He told newspersons this evening that barring incidents of firing at three places in Rajouri, in which one civilian was killed, the polling passed off peacefully. He said the commission had received some complaints of minor irregularities which were immediately looked into and rectified.

In Suchetgarh, which is situated a few metres away from Pakistani territory, the polling picked up after two hours. In several booths in Suchetgarh and R.S. Pora, this correspondent found only about 12 voters outside the stations. In three polling stations of R.S. Pora and Suchetgarh, 200 votes out of 3,260 had cast by 9.30 a.m.

In the Gura Brahma polling station, 3 km away from border, in the Jourian sub-sector, 200 voters out of 1070 had cast their votes by 11.30 a.m. Mohan Lal, a mechanic, said during the night villagers were disturbed because of intermittent firing from the other side but “we have decided to retaliate their bullets by ballots.”

Barring sporadic incidents of violence, the polling passed off peacefully. The police and paramilitary forces had been deployed in highly sensitive areas.

In Kala Ban and Gambhir Mughlan in Poonch district, polling started two hours late because polling staff could not reach on time.

In the Arnia sector of R.S. Pora, a BSF jawan was injured in Pakistani firing which caused temporary panic but had no impact on polling. In the Khet area of Poonch, the militants had planted an IED near a polling station but it was defused before it could cause any damage.

There were more than 30 border villages where polling stations were not set up because these villages, including Pallanwala, Panjtoot and Pargwal, were deserted following the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Some migrants were clubbed with booths situated near their camps. Those from Pallanwala were directed to cast their votes in polling stations at Devipur village where a majority of them have been camping since 1999.

Ishra Devi, aged 116, had come to a booth along with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren to cast her vote at Garota.

Khanna Ram (105) and Bukhi Devi (100) cast their votes at Sapwal in the Samba sector. Mohammad Akbar and Mohammad Aziz Wani, both over 100, voted at Thananandi and Rajdhani villages of Rajouri.

Sixteen candidates were in the fray but the main contestants are Dr Nirmal Singh (BJP), Mr Madan Lal Sharma (Cong) and Mr Talib Hussain (NC).

In a number of polling stations of the R.S. Pora, Samba and Akhnoor sectors, only the NC, Congress and BJP were represented by their agents.

In all, polling was held in 1,649 booths, out of which 347 were “hyper-sensitive”. More than 15.79 lakh persons had to cast their votes in the byelection to this Lok Sabha constituency.

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