A day before Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama goes to vote, an eerie silence descended on the streets the district hit by one of the state's worst terror attacks earlier this year. People mill around but are guarded in their response. They want to talk about anything but elections.
Pulwama, known as the "Anand (delight) of Kashmir" for its congenial climate, innumerable springs and waterfalls, hogged the headlines when a suicide bomber rammed his car into a CRPF convoy on February 14, killing 40 paramilitary troopers.
Since then the campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha polls has revolved around Pulwama and terrorism with parties making nationalism a key poll issue.
On Monday, Pulwama - a part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat - will hold elections and all eyes will be on how people respond.
Gulzar Wani, a grocery store owner, who was greatly agitated when asked about the prospects of Monday's voting. "I don't think that there will be any voting in this area. The machines may return untouched," he said.
Senior police officials believe that the voting may not cross the double-digit mark.
The district has hardly seen any election campaigning by political parties.
The National Conference and the Congress confined their political activities to party offices.
The Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP), which has a strong base in south Kashmir, is almost missing. Party candidate Mehbooba Mufti has preferred to stay away from canvassing.
No wall, street or building is festooned with colourful flags and banners of the parties.
Former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah, while speaking for party candidate Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, said voting was essential prevent attempts to abrogate Article 370 which guarantees special status to the state.
G A Mir of the Congress attempted to woo the voters by pointing out the failures of the National Conference and the PDP.
However, a thin attendance of people can be seen in their election meetings.
Waheed Para of the PDP said in an article that ahead of the elections, the anti-terrorism operations needed to be halted as political parties cannot go and ask the people to vote when they are mourning the deaths of their loved ones.
Security forces working to ensure smooth conduct of the polls have cracked the whip on trouble-mongers.
While there are no official figures, a rough estimate is that 400 young men have been picked up and lodged in jails as a precautionary measure, say political activists from the area.
"Ever since February 14, the people here live in fear. A midnight knock from security forces is quite possible," says Nazir Ahmed, a tea stall owner in Pulwama town.
A senior police official said all arrangements have been put in place for Monday's voting in Shopian and Pulwama.
"Everything has been put in place and adequate number of security personnel along with their mobile bunkers have been placed in the two districts," he said.
Pulwama district has 3.51 lakh eligible voters. For smooth polling, the Election Commission has set up 450 polling stations across the district.
The elections to Anantnag Parliamentary seat was divided into three phases.
Earlier Anantnag voted on April 23 in which 12.8 per cent votes were cast. This was followed by the second phase in Kulgam on April 29 which recorded around 10 per cent voting.
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