Srinagar: Over six per cent of the electorate turned out to cast their votes on Monday in the 83 wards of urban local bodies in Kashmir during the first six hours of polling in the first of the four-phased elections in the valley amidst tight security arrangements, an official said.

“Over 5,400 voters have exercised their franchise till 1.00 pm at the 150 polling stations set up in the 83 wards across the Kashmir Valley where polling is going on today,” the official said.

Around 85,000 voters including 40,800 women are eligible to vote in the valley.

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Out of 30,074 voters in three wards of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, 1,500 have turned up at fortified polling stations.

Polling was brisk in north Kashmir as more than 29 per cent of 4700 voters cast their votes in the first two hours for Kupwara Municipal Committee, followed by 21 per cent in Handwara town, the official said.

The poll percentage in Bandipora, Baramulla, Anantnag and Budgam municipal areas was around five per cent.

The polling, which began at 7.00 am and will conclude at 4.00 pm, is being held for only 83 wards in the valley today as 69 wards have been won uncontested.

Of the 150 polling stations in the Kashmir division, 138 polling stations have been categorized as hypersensitive.

The urban local body polls were announced last month but two major political parties — the National Conference and PDP — have boycotted the elections accusing the Centre of not taking a firm stand on protection of Article 35-A of the Constitution, which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Militants have issued threats, and killed two National Conference workers, to anyone participating in these polls, resulting in absence of any campaigning by the candidates.

In fact, in dozens of wards especially in south Kashmir, no candidate filed nomination papers for the polls.

For ensuring security of candidates, they have been moved to safe locations and their details have not been made public.

Strike Called by Separatists Hits Normal Life in Valley

Normal life was hit in the Kashmir Valley due to a strike called by the separatists against the holding of the local bodies’ polls.

Shops, business establishments, private offices and fuel stations remained closed in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

They added that public transport was off the roads, while a few private cars, taxis and autorickshaws were seen plying in some areas of the city.

Similar reports of shutdown were received from the other district headquarters of the valley, the officials said.

They added that while there were no restrictions anywhere in the valley, security personnel were deployed in strength in the vulnerable areas to maintain law and order.

The separatists, under the banner of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), had called for a shutdown on Monday against the holding of the local bodies’ polls in the state.

The JRL — comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik — asked the people to observe a complete strike against the “so-called elections”.

The authorities had placed Mirwaiz under house arrest on Sunday, while Malik was taken into preventive custody earlier this month. Geelani continues to remain under house detention for some time now.

(With PTI inputs)