Srinagar, Dec 9:
Defying a separatist call to boycott the polls, voters in Kashmir formed queues at polling stations in the third round of the staggered assembly election. Guerrillas lobbed a grenade in Gulmarg, but there were no casualties.
The ballotting took place four days after a string of terror attacks that left 21 people, including eight soldiers, dead in Kashmir.
Voters trickled out Tuesday morning at almost all the polling stations to elect representatives for the 16 assembly segments as freezing cold gripped Kashmir.
As the day progressed and the sun peeped out, more voters thronged the polling booths.
Long queues of enthusiastic voters in Kramshore village of Khansahib constituency in Badgam district seemed determined Tuesday to choose their representatives, completely ignoring the separatist calls to stay away from the poll process.
Of nearly 1,100 votes at this polling station, over 150 including men and women, especially first time voters, had lined up outside the polling station in the first one hour.
The voter mood was festive as most of them said they were out to vote for change.
“I have come out to vote because the only thing that can now make any difference to our backward, neglected village is change. This is a chance we do not want to miss it at any cost,” Muhammad Shafi, 42, a voter at Kramshore polling station, told IANS.
Over 13 lakh voters will get to decide the political fate of 138 candidates in the districts of Baramulla, Budgam and Pulwama at 1,781 polling stations.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Chowdhary Taj Mohiuddin, Ghulam Hassan Mir, Abdul Rahim Rather and Javaid Ahmad Dar are among the prominent candidates.
Undeterred by threats and boycott calls, people stood in queues in Badgam town, which is part of Badgam constituency.
Moderate to brisk voting was also seen in Uri, Pattan, Sangrama and Gulmarg constituencies of Baramulla district while Sopore constituency witnessed very low turnout.
In Beerwah constituency of Badgam district, from where Omar Abdullah is contesting, long voter queues formed.
In Tral constituency, just 10 votes had been polled at the higher secondary poll station in the town during the first two hours.
Rajpora, Pulwama and Pampore constituencies also saw voters turning up in good numbers as the bright, but weak winter sun started throwing warmth in the Valley.
There were stray incidents of violence.
A grenade was hurled at Khypora police station in Gulmarg. But, there were no casualties.
A group of youth attempted to dissuade voters from exercising their franchise in Palhalam town of Pattan constituency by pelting stones. The police chased them away.
The voters were, however, unfazed.
At Gowharpora polling station in Chadura constituency, a small queue started building as the doors of the polling station were opened to the voters.
Reports from the adjacent Pulwama district, where another four constituencies are voting Tuesday also suggested voting started slow because of the biting cold.
In Tral constituency of Pulwama district, where two civilians were killed in a grenade explosion Dec 5, no voters had turned out at polling stations early in the morning.
In Baramulla district, where seven constituencies went to poll Tuesday, voter queues were seen in Uri constituency in the morning but there were hardly any voters outside polling stations in Sopore town.
The weather office has forecast fair weather across the Valley Tuesday.
No constituency in Jammu region goes to the polls Tuesday.
Over 500 companies of Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Central Reserve Police Force have been deployed. (IANS)