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Violence, coercion mar third round of J&K polls

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, an independent network of rights activists from all over India, including Jammu and Kashmir, has alleged "violent coercion" in most of the 16 constituencies which went to polls in the third round October 2. Coalition activists fanned out into four teams to cover a large area.

In its latest interim report, the coalition said its four teams covered 100 booths. With the exception of Tral town, where both security forces and militants were responsible for coercion and threats, in all other instances it was the security forces (mainly the army's Rashtriya Rifles) "which was accused by the people for coercing them to come out and vote."

The coalition team was told in Gabarpura, Mughalpura and Kuchaypura villages that even women were abused by security forces personnel. "Another shocking complaint the team came across was that of army personnel stripping themselves in front of womenfolk to add insult to the intimidation…," the report said.

The coalition report said in Saraf Mohalla and Baba Mohalla in Bijbehara, former home minister Mufti Sayeed's hometown, doors of homes were broken open and people’s I-Cards snatched away by security personnel. "Many people complained that they were dragged out by the army so early in the morning that they could not even wash their faces."

A coalition team was taken by locals to Tangmarg village of Ahrabal where Rashtriya Rifles troops went from house to house intimidating people, ordering them to go and vote next day. A faint-hearted woman, Mirjan Akhtar, swooned and died of fright.

In the same village a man, Munir Ahmad Paswal, was beaten up by security personnel for removing a poll poster from his home wall. The security personnel "claimed to have discovered a gun" lying outside his home.

In Shangus and Nowgam villages the coalition team saw long queues of voters at polling booths. Enquiries revealed that Rashtriya Rifles men had ordered everyone, including the sick, to come out and vote. 

The coalition said it had made special efforts to find out whether the security forces had coerced them to vote or militants had warned them not to vote. They found only two places where the local militant commander had warned people not to vote.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir’s chief election officer Pramod Jain denied in Srinagar Friday, October 4, allegations of coercion by security forces. He said the security forces were told "getting people to vote is not your job". They were there to ensure protection from militants. 

¯ MG Correspondent 

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