Kashmir shuts as polls for 15 municipal committees begin

Srinagar: Life came to a grinding halt as shop and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the roads due to a strike called by the joint resistance leadership in Kashmir Valley on Monday, when polling for the first of the four phased Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections was being held.

Polling is underway in 321 wards in the first of the four phase Municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir amidst unprecedented security arrangements following strike and apprehension of militant attempts to disrupt the process.

Shops and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the road in Civil Lines and uptown Srinagar though few private vehicles, particularly two-wheelers, could be seen plying on some routes in restriction-free areas.

Business and other activities remained crippled in main business hubs of the city, including historic Lal Chowk, the nerve-centre of summer capital, Budshah Chowk, Regal Chowk, Maisuma, Hari Singh High Street (HSHS), Batmaloo, Moulana Azad Road, Residency Road and Dalgate.

Additional security forces, wearing bullet proof jackets and holding weapons and lathis in their hands, were seen patrolling the streets in restriction-free areas to prevent any untoward incident.

Joint Resistance leadership (JRL), comprising of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq and Mohammad Yaseen Malik, had called for a general strike on Monday against the ULB polls.

The JRL has also urged people to boycott the elections.

Hundreds of security forces and state police personnel were deployed to maintain law and order in major towns and tehsil headquarters in south Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian, where business and other activities were paralyzed and traffic was off the roads in support of the strike.

In Anantnag, polling is being held in four wards in which eight candidates are in the fray.

Life also came to a grinding halt in central Kashmir districts of Budgam and Ganderbal in support of the strike called by separatists. One ward is in fray in central Kashmir district of Budgam, where two candidates are trying their luck.

A report from Baramulla said life was crippled in this and other north Kashmir towns and tehsil headquarters, where shops were closed and traffic was off the road in support of the strike.

Additional security forces have been deployed in entire north Kashmir to prevent any law and order problem.

In Baramulla, 31 candidates are trying their luck in 15 municipal wards while as 18 candidates are in fray for seven wards in Kupwara.

As many as 16 wards are in fray for which 23 polling stations have been set up in Bandipora, where 42 are contesting elections.

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