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Just 7.14% polling in Srinagar seat—lowest-ever in 5 decades

12 Apr

UMER MAQBOOL
Srinagar, Publish Date: Apr 10 2017 12:33AM 


Just 7.14% polling in Srinagar seat—lowest-ever in 5 decades

Amid large-scale protests and clashes, the high-profile Srinagar parliamentary segment that went to polls on Sunday recorded the lowest-ever voter turnout, with the Election Commission of India authorities putting the overall polling percentage at 7.14, considered to be worst in five decades. Regarding the killings by forces, the CEO said “it was not a good day for all of us.”

Addressing a news conference here, J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer Shantamanu said nearly 7.14 percent polling was recorded in the segment for which the by-election was necessitated following the resignation of Tariq Hamid Karra. Karra had resigned on October 17 last year over “naked brutalities” inflicted on the people by the Government during the people’s uprising triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

Giving break-up of votes polled, the CEO said 90050 votes were polled during the day-long exercise that was marked by killing of youth by forces.

The segment spread over Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts has 12.61 lakh voters.

He said 24574 votes were polled in eight assembly segments of Srinagar district with Hazratbal recording 3483 votes, Zadibal 3280, Eidgah 383, Khanyar 2587, Habba Kadal 2058, Amira Kadal 3331, Sonwar 4777 and Batamaloo 4675.

 Similarly, he said, in five assembly segments of Budgam district, a total of 40288 votes were cast with Chadoora recording 602, Budgam 13276, Beerwah 13625, Khan Sahab 9492 and Chrar-e-Sharief 3293 votes.

In two assembly segments of Ganderbal district, a total of 24217 votes were polled that included 15199 in Kangan and 9018 in Ganderbal assembly segments, the CEO disclosed.

He said 3.84 percent polling was recorded in Srinagar, 8.82 percent in Budgam and 14.71 percent in Ganderbal districts.

“Kangan assembly segment in Ganderbal district recorded highest voter turnout of 15199, while lowest polling of 383 votes was recorded in Eidgah assembly segment,” he said.

Shantamanu also said 971 votes were also polled at the three migrant polling centres set- up at Jammu, Udhampur and New Delhi.

The Sunday’s voter turnout was the lowest-ever in the segment since elections were held for its first time in 1967.

The previous lowest voter turnout in the segment was 11.93% during the 1999 LS elections.

According to the Election Commission of India figures with Greater Kashmir, the voter turnout on the seat was 37.25 percent in 1967, 58.88 % in 1971, 69.12 % in 1977, 73.51 % in 1984, 40.94 % in 1996, 30.6% in 1998, 11.93 % in 1999, 18.57 % in 2004, 25.55% in 2009 and 25.86 % in 2014.

During the 1996 Lok Sabha election, there were massive allegations that forces and ‘Ikhawanis’ (government gunmen) coerced the people to vote and the voter turnout was inflated.

During 1980 and 1989 LS polls, Farooq Abdullah and Muhammad Shafi Bhat were respectively elected unopposed from the segment, while the 1991 LS polls could not be held in J&K due to outbreak of armed militancy.

Shantamanu, who was flanked by IGP Kashmir SJM Gilani, said the voter turnout today was much less than previous LS election when 26 percent polling percentage was recorded.

This implies that voter turnout this time was 19 percent less than previous LS elections.

The CEO said more than 200 incidents of violence were reported in the segment particularly in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, on Sunday.

“There were more than 200 incidents of stone-pelting and petrol bomb attacks. The protesters also set ablaze a polling booth and also some SRTC and private vehicles,” he said.

He said they closed polling booths in some areas after protesters tried to set them ablaze.

“The EVMs were also damaged in the process but we got them back. After receiving presiding officers’ dairies, a team comprising election observer, returning officer and presiding officer would examine all such cases and decide on what needs to be done in the cases where polling was affected,” he asked.

Asked about the number of stations where polling was affected, the CEO said the number may be 50, 100 or 150.

“I cannot give you the exact number. But I can say the number could be around 50, 100 or 150,” he said.

The CEO described the election for Anantnag parliamentary segment as a major challenge.

“I think it is a bigger challenge and we will face it. We are making preparations in this regard,” he said.

The Anantnag parliamentary segment is going to polls on April 12.

According to observers, today’s voter turnout is a matter of concern for both the ruling PDP and the opposition National Conference.

“It is definitely a set-back for mainstream parties in Kashmir,” they said.

At present, the combined strength of legislators from Central Kashmir’s three districts is 17—14 MLAs and three MLCs.

Meanwhile, J&K Government described the today’s voter turnout as “depressing”.

“It would have been preferable to lose through a heavy turnout of votes rather than win through a boycotted election,” said senior PDP leader, Naeem Akther.

Asked whether 2016 uprising was responsible for the low voter turnout, Akther said the low percentage was due to many factors.

“It is depressing that we should stay away from democratic process, although it has been established that there is no other recipe of problems except democracy. We have to de-radicalize our approach to problems,” he said.

Akther, who is Minister for R&B, also blamed Farooq Abdullah for today’s violence.

“It is unfortunate that one of the candidates (Dr Farooq Abdullah) also tried to glorify stone pelting and protests against the country for whose Parliament he is contesting the elections. This dichotomy of approach has also contributed to very sad course of events today,” he said.

At the time of addressing the presser, Shantamanu said six civilians were killed and 17 injured in poll-related violence in Central Kashmir’s parliamentary segment.

He said six deaths were caused due to firing and other similar incidents.

“More than 100 police and paramilitary personnel were also injured in the violence,” he said

 

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‘India relies on nukes build-up instead of resolving Kashmir‘

12 Apr

india nuclearIndia has always relied on nuclear arms build-up instead of resolving the longstanding dispute of Kashmir, a senior officer of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA) said while addressing a British think tank.

‘South Asian Strategic Stability: A Pakistani Perspective’ was the topic of a recent address at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), London where ACDA Director Brigadier Zahir Kazmi said, “The Indo-Pak Subcontinent’s nuclear powers have conflicting strategic paradigms.”

“India is distinctly revisionist and pursues global status and hegemony. Conversely, Pakistan pursues sovereign equality, undiminished security and peaceful coexistence.”

Bilateral restraint and responsibility, he said, must be exercised in nuclear, conventional and non-kinetic domains and State-terrorism should be condemned. Continuing dialogue, despite terrorist attacks, would weaken the terrorist-resolve and strengthen those, who wanted to build sustainable regional peace, he added.

He said that the international community had a stake in stabilising South Asia – that was of profiting from the unprecedented economic opportunities which the Asian Century was offering for all to seize, invest, capitalise and reap.

Strategic stability, he said was the fruit of relationship between India and Pakistan that encompassed the political conditions, security circumstances, doctrines and force postures to mutually preserve peace, prevent crisis escalation and resolve disputes to reduce the risk of war, especially a nuclear exchange.

“If peace and normalcy at the political and strategic plan remains elusive, stabilising deterrence is the next logical option and its nadir. Impasse over resolution of the bilateral disputes is the mother of all problems in the Sub-Continent,” he noted.

While recollecting historic facts, he said that nuclear weapons had always played an unlimited and central role in Indian strategic thinking.

Since the 1950s the country proliferated, made nuclear weapons for status and then created a security rationale for these, he said.

Threat from China, he said, was used as a bogey and raison d’ˆtre for India’s first nuclear bomb that was “peacefully” tested in 1974.

He said that in 1950s, Homi Bhaba, the founder of the Indian nuclear programme, had a politically backed plan for making nuclear weapons in nuclear energy’s garb. This was much before the war with China precipitated in 1962, he added.

In stark contrast, he said, Islamabad’s nuclear thinking had always been influenced by New Delhi’s doctrinal and force posture choices.

Islamabad had always endeavoured to maintain balance with proportionate and restrained responses to a dynamic threat, he added.

These disparate paradigms and lack of Indian interest in resolving bilateral disputes, he said, impacted the pursuit of strategic stability in a unique fashion.

Ironically, the diplomatic process in South Asia was sporadic and yielded little results, he said.

Islamabad faced increasing hubris, arrogance and reluctance to negotiate and resolve the disputes with its neighbour, he added.

He said that Pakistan spent 2.1 per cent of Asia’s total defence outlay, which paled in comparison to 13.9 per cent by India.

At 51.5 billion dollars, the Indian defence budget was 3.9 billion dollars more than that of France, 7.8 billion dollars less than Russia and 1.4 billion dollars less than Britain, he stated.

“India’s declaratory nuclear doctrine is incredible and destabilising.”

Indian Ambassadors and scholars, he said, had recently vindicated Pakistan that India’s force posture developments and rhetoric don’t add up.

He said that there were several hot takes on the policy of pre-emptive strike against Pakistan.

Once a scholar of Indian origin claimed at a recent nuclear fest in Washington DC that the ‘No-First Use’ pledge was a pretense, he said.

Indicating massive retaliation threat, he said that huge naval nuclear build-up and unrelenting fissile material production were some of the inconsistencies with the notion of minimalism in the nuclear doctrine in the neighbourhood of Pakistan.

Since 2013, there had been several signals that the doctrine was up for a change, he said.

Since then, some aspects had been leaked for gauging the international reactions, he added. Unlike nuclear doctrine, he said that Indian `limited war doctrine’ – alternatively called Cold Start and Proactive Defence Strategy – was credible.

“The country espouses a pre-emptive limited conventional war and hopes that it shall not escalate to nuclear level. Cold Start Doctrine was denied for 14 years till it fully matured and their Army Chief recently owned it.”

Cold Start Doctrine, he said, was operationalised at a big cost of around 182 billion dollars for the military hardware procurement, development of communication infrastructure. He said that India’s sub-conventional war or terrorism as a doctrine will create problems for Pakistan.

Ajit Doval, Indian Security Adviser, has openly professed a defensive-offensive mode of terrorism against Pakistan to remain under the country’s nuclear threshold.

He has also been explicit about targeting Balochistan.

Likewise, Prime Minister Modi had claimed that he played a part in the break-up of Pakistan in 1971, he said.

“Sub-conventional war’s latest manifestation came in 2016 once Commander Kulbhushan Yadav – a senior serving Indian intelligence naval officer – was arrested in Pakistan for abetting terrorism and fanning insurgency on his State’s orders.

“Use of State terrorism by a nuclear power to destabilise its neighbouring nuclear power is a sui generis case of the nuclear age,” he said.

The US declassified documents of 1960s, he said, provided dramatic evidence of over five decades of American ambivalence regarding their proliferation.

Top secret declassified documents revealed in 1961 that the US wanted to help India in making nuclear weapons, he said.

A State Department memo read: “It would be desirable if a friendly Asian power beat the Communist China to the punch by detonating a nuclear device first” – and India was the best candidate.” “Historically, Indian nuclear proliferation has remained a secondary American policy concern,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the last American administration went out of the way in winning India an exceptional waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008, relegating all international non-proliferation norms that have been weaved as an apartheid over seven decades of nuclear age, he said.

There was also utter disregard to the fact that such exceptionalism can feed into strategic instability, he added.

Zahir Kazmi asked how long could the unfairness in non-proliferation regime endure if it catered to the politico-economic interests of few and created an apartheid against others based on the so-called principles.

Such exceptionalism had allowed a fast and dangerous nuclear programme fester in India, he added.

He said that a nuclear city had secretly sprouted up in Challakere, Karnataka, for building HEU stocks beyond the requirement of fuelling nuclear submarines and for making thermonuclear weapons.

There were assessments that Indian unsafeguarded nuclear reactors had a capacity of 2600 MWt, which was 13 times larger than that of Pakistan, he said.

The trophy for sporting the largest, oldest and fastest growing unsafeguarded nuclear programme in the developing world belongs to New Delhi, which currently has a total capacity of producing between 356 and 493 plutonium-based nuclear weapons, he quoted from recent open source assessments.

The developments in Indian missile and ballistic missile defence programme, he said were destabilising.

Since 1998 Pakistan had conducted 85 flight tests compared to 220 by India, which made their testing ratio 2.5 times more, he added.

Indian cyber capability, he said, was is potentially destabilizing.

“According to New Delhi’s National Cyber Security Policy of 2013, India shall have a force of half a million “cyber security professionals” by 2018. This force would be more than thrice the combined size of the entire British land, air and naval defence forces.”

Against this backdrop, he said that Pakistan saw itself cliff-hanging to maintain strategic stability in the Sub-Continent.

“Pakistan’s sincere desire for peaceful resolution of all disputes, particularly that of Jammu and Kashmir, has been a wild goose chase. Pakistan has exercised unilateral strategic restraint and takes minimum essential measures to stabilise deterrence,” he said. If India was a responsible and restrained power, it would not have played an active role in dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971, he said.

It was a country that has maintained an uncomfortable peace with all its neighbours, he added. Conversely, he said, Pakistan tested nuclear deterrent 24 years after India and started its missile programme almost a decade after it. He said that Pakistan believed in maintaining strategic balance instead of gaining parity with India.

“This is achieved by maintaining strategic capabilities at a level that is minimum for the credibility of deterrence. Minimalism in Pakistani nuclear behaviour is a function of self-restraint rather than resource constraint.”

“If nuclear weapons are only `political in nature and if there is a true commitment to nuclear disarmament, the focus of our collective efforts should be on dispute resolution and building peace rather than conflict management and building sinews of war,” he added.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper of 10-Apr-2017