The apple town of Sopore, a hotbed of separatists and militancy with a reputation of remaining indifferent to electoral politics, saw a slight improvement in turnout during polling for Baramulla Lok Sabha seat Thursday.
Defying boycott call by separatists and militant threats, three per cent of the over one lakh eligible voters exercised their franchise till 3 pm at polling stations in Sopore assembly segment, which is part of Baramulla Lok Sabha seat in north Kashmir, officials said.
They said the voter turn out for Sopore in 2014 Lok Sabha polls was mere 1.08 per cent.
Since the eruption of militancy in Kashmir in 1990, Sopore town has seen low voter turnout in the elections. However, in 2014 Assembly polls, the voters had elected Congress candidate Haji Abdul Rashid Dar to the state assembly and the voter turn out was 30 per cent -- the highest since turn of the millennium.
Those who exercised their franchise were willing to give many reasons why they defied militant threats and separatists' boycott call but without revealing their identity.
"Our existence is under threat ... we cannot leave the field open for the BJP and its proxies in Kashmir. This is the main reason why I decided to vote," said a middle-aged man outside a polling station in this town.
In 2002 elections, the turnout in the assembly elections was 8.09 per cent.
The poll percentage took a giant leap in 2008 assembly elections as nearly 20 per cent voters exercised their franchise, notwithstanding the fact that the polls were held immediately after the Amarnath land row.
In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the poll percentage dropped to around 15 per cent. However, the biggest drop in voter turn out was witnessed in 2014 Lok Sabha polls as only 1.08 per cent voters came out to cast their votes. One of the main reasons attributed to this drastic dip was execution of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru in 2013.
Other than Guru, hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and moderate Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat hail from Sopore town. In fact, Geelani has represented Sopore in the state assembly three times -- 1972, 1977 and 1987 -- before the eruption of militancy.
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