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Cops, anti-poll protesters clash in Jammu & Kashmir

Fearing protests, authorities clamped informal curfew in Srinagar but the anti-poll lobby choose peripheral towns to demonstrate on the last day of campaigning for the second phase.

, ET Bureau|
Nov 22, 2008, 03.45 AM IST
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SRINAGAR: Fearing protests, authorities clamped informal curfew in Srinagar but the anti-poll lobby choose peripheral towns to demonstrate on the last day of campaigning for the second phase. In clashes between cops and protesters around many people were injured including one who received a bullet injury in Ganderbal, a key constituency from where Mr Omar Abdullah is contesting, that goes to polls on Sunday along with neighbouring Kangan and four segments of Rajouri district in Jammu.

Adequate deployments had been made but a crowd after offering Friday prayers came out from Ganderbal���s Beehama, Daderhama and Tawheed Bagh mosques. Shouting anti-poll slogans, they were on way to main chowk when police intercepted them separately. As cane-charging failed, the cops started bursting tear-smoke shells. Farooq Ganderbali, a local candidate was passing through and a shell hit his vehicle forcing his Personal Security Officer to open fire in which Bilal Ahmad was injured.

A senior police officer in Srinagar said the fire was opened by CRPF when the people at Tawheed Bagh pelted stones on Ganderbali���s cavalcade in which some vehicles were damaged. A CRPF man opened fire and it hit the candidate���s PSO Bilal. ���He is out of danger,��� the officer said.

Later, cops lobbed tear smoke shells into the homes of the residents triggering a chain reaction. SKIMS casualty said it received 12 persons from Ganderbal who were injured in the police action. A young boy was reported to be serious as his skull fractured in police action. But the incident is unlikely to impact the Sunday polling.

Says Farooq Ahmad, a local resident: ���The three areas that form the central Ganderbal is otherwise for boycott so this incident will reinforce the decision in this part only and will have no spill over���. A keenly contested constituency, Omar is pitted in a triangular contest with Congress and PDP, here and the division of votes can offer the winner a very narrow margin. Omar lost to PDP in 2002 as his father and grand-pa retained the seat in earlier four elections.

His defeat forced NC to skip staking a claim to rule by cobbling a coalition despite emerging as J&K���s largest political party.

All the contestants made their last ditch efforts to woo the voters as campaigning for the second phase close this evening. Ganderbal along with neighbouring Kangan and four segments of Rajouri district are going to polls on Sunday.

Ms Mehbooba Mufti visited Gund the faraway belt of Kangan to sigh off the campaigning of her candidate who is unlikely to win against NC���s Mian Altaf. Omar, on his part, addressed a few gathering after visiting Korag and later joining prayers in Ganderbal. (Interestingly his party activists had a fight with rival Congress workers in Narain Bagh in Lar).

Interestingly both Mehbooba and Omar have sent their fathers to Rajouri and are holding the fort for the respective parties in Kashmir. For six seats including two in Kashmir, 81 candidates including 23 independents are in fray.

Protests were also reported from Anantnag, Sopore, Tral, Handwara, Baramulla and Shopian. In Anantnag, Sopore and Shopian there were clashes between pro-boycott demonstrators and the police in which a number of people from either side were injured. A huge procession that came out of the local Khanqah dispersed peacefully after an hour long sloganeering for freedom and poll boycott.

In Srinagar, police clamped curfew restrictions without actually announcing it. They said they had reports that Mirwaiz Umer Farooq may lead a huge gathering into prayers as many smaller mosques had decided against holding Friday prayers. Though Mirwaiz disputed the police claims, he remained under house arrest. No Friday prayers were offered in Jamia Masjid.
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