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'Polls Don't Make Sense': Living Amid Bloodshed, Border Villages of Kashmir Witness Lowest Turnout

On Thursday, as voting began for the Lok Sabha polls, only two votes were cast till afternoon. By the end of the poll day, 10 votes were recorded in Langate area. Similar was in situation in Hajin town of Bandipora.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:April 11, 2019, 11:17 PM IST
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'Polls Don't Make Sense': Living Amid Bloodshed, Border Villages of Kashmir Witness Lowest Turnout
Over 50 people were left homeless after last month's gunbattle. The village, which is nestled in the apple orchards, still wears a desolate look. (News18.com)
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Babagund (Langate): Over a month ago, thirteen houses were razed to the ground after a gunfight raged between militants and forces in the Babagund village of Langate area in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

In the gunbattle that lasted for 72 hours, two militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba — one local and another from Pakistan — three CRPF men, two policemen and a civilian were killed.

In this deadly gunfight, over fifty people were left homeless and even after a month, the village, which is nestled in the apple orchards, wears a desolate look.

On Thursday, as voting began for the Lok Sabha polls, only two votes were cast till afternoon. By the end of the poll day, 10 votes were recorded out of total 836 votes. The villagers say they did not vote because, after the gunfight, no one visited or helped them.

“We are living with relatives and neighbours. In this period of time no one came to see us whether we are alive or dead,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, who lost his house.

The houses lie in ruins. Few families are working and razing the damaged structure completely down to construct a new house but they don’t know how they will do so. “We don’t have any money. How will we construct the house,” said another family member, wishing not to be named.

For these villagers elections and voting doesn’t make any sense. “Our life has been destroyed. We lost everything in that gunfight. Whether someone goes to Parliament or not, it will hardly change our life,” said Shah.

During the gunbattle, the families, who are mostly working as farmers, even lost their cattle. The surrounding villages of Babagund were festive and people cast votes in overwhelming numbers. But the polling station in Babagund, situated in a government school building, wore a deserted look.

Same was the situation in the Hajin town of Bandipora where only 10 votes were cast out of 2,236 votes. Notorious in the 1990s for the Ikhwan — the pro-government militia, which was instrumental in killing militants, the town has turned as hot-bed of Lashkar-e-Toiba militants.

On March 22, two militants, including a top commander of LeT, were killed in a gunfight. The militants also took host a 12-year-old boy who also got killed in the gunfight.

The Hajin town was observing complete shutdown and people looked indifferent to the polls. “We see bloodshed every day here. The elections don’t make any sense,” said Shabir Ahmad Mir, a local.

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