Vikram Chandra Blogs Live From Kashmir Valley


Dec 09, 2014
18:05 (IST)

Dec 09, 2014
15:56 (IST)

Dec 09, 2014
15:51 (IST)
Stone-pelting at Baramulla

Just when I was wondering if I had wandered into the wrong state, we entered Baramulla to see that groups of stone pelters had got some polling booths to close. The security forces were firing tear gas shells.

Take a look at this.

Dec 09, 2014
15:42 (IST)

Have spent the past couple of hours in and around Sopore. The heart of the town itself is like a fortified garrison, with a shutdown of all shops and heavy security presence.

But in other parts of Sopore, something that hasn't been seen in 30 years. Voting.

At just one polling station we saw 800 votes out of 2800 had been cast. That's actually quite staggering considering Sopore saw polling of less than 1 percent in the parliamentary elections.

We met Sajad Sheikh who cast a vote for the first time in his life. And it was a vote for himself, because he dived in at the deep end by contesting the polls. His first taste of democracy and its as a candidate!

I met an old friend Professor Abdul Ghani Bhatt, who has long been a leading light of the Hurriyat Conference. He said that the polls have nothing to do with the core issues nor would they provide a solution.

Dec 09, 2014
12:32 (IST)
A goosebump moment at Lalad in Sangrama
At an ordinary looking polling booth with 1027 registered voters at Lalad in Sangrama, 289 people had already voted by noon, which is nearly 30 per cent.

The big deal is this is an area that has historically seen a total boycott. I met a number of young men - they say no one has voted here since 1987. Most of them had never voted in their own lives - this was their first ever taste of democracy.

The reason, according to them, is to vote for a local candidate from the area. They feel their previous MLA didn't do anything for them, and they want a change.

Hey, that's exactly what democracy is about. Welcome!

Dec 09, 2014
11:42 (IST)
Guess whose hoarding is up at a tiny hamlet near Sangrama? This may not be unusual across the rest of the country, but it's quite striking to find in this part of the Kashmir valley. 

Dec 09, 2014
11:41 (IST)
Shops are closed in Pattan, the first part of Baramulla district that you encounter when driving north from Srinagar along Highway 1 A. This is the road that runs to Sopore, Baramulla town and then to Uri which saw the terror attack on Friday. The absence of traffic helps us zip along.

Pattan has areas like Palhallan that see stone throwing every few days. We saw heavy security but no demonstrators on the road. My colleague Nazir Masoodi saw a decent turnout in Pattan this morning.
Dec 09, 2014
11:38 (IST)
All parts of downtown Srinagar look completely normal this morning. People bustling in the markets, mini traffic jams on some of the roads in Khanyar. And hardly any security presence. Not even near the Idgah and Kawadara bunkers.

This has long been a major separatist stronghold, where the writ of the Mirwaiz runs. He hasn't been campaigning much for a boycott, involving himself in flood relief and rehabilitation efforts instead. But even now, stone pelters often take to the streets in downtown Srinagar, and so the calm this morning is interesting to see.

Srinagar doesn't vote today - the city goes to the polls on Sunday. But given that polling is taking place just a few kilometres away in Budgam and Pattan, the lack of tension is in sharp contrast to previous elections.
Dec 09, 2014
11:38 (IST)
Vote? It's too cold to vote. It's too cold to report on the voting. It's the weather to curl up under a thick quilt with a kangri to watch the India-Australia test match.

And yet out into the cold we all must go, because this is one of the most crucial days of polling that Kashmir has ever seen. Phase three of the elections in Jammu Kashmir extends to three sensitive districts in the valley, and the turnout here will be a very clear indicator of how much things could have changed on the ground.

Among those districts is Baramulla. This includes the constituencies of Uri, which saw that big terror attack a few days ago, and Sopore - the traditional bastion of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Areas like Sopore have hardly ever seen any voting, and so even a modest turnout will have huge implications.

Also polling is the Pulwama region of South Kashmir, which also saw a couple of attacks on Friday. This district includes constituencies like Tral, which are one of the few remaining spots in the valley which have some militant presence.

Then there is Budgam district, which includes Omar Abdullah's new constituency of Beerwah. I would be astonished if you didn't see a big turnout here -- because that's usually the case.

In short, the impact of the turnout figure today really depends from constituency to constituency. Some parts of the Valley, especially in the rural areas, have often seen decent polling, and so the queues have less meaning. Other areas, especially in urban centres usually see a boycott. And so even a handful of voters means a big change.
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