As India’s general elections started Thursday in some parts of the country, sporadic incidents of violence were reported in some states, with reports of at least two deaths in clashes between political parties.
Since Thursday morning, voters came out to cast their votes in 91 Lok Sabha constituencies across 20 states and Union Territories in the first of the mega seven-phase general elections in the country.
By the end of the day, Indian Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said polling in the first phase ended peacefully “barring minor incidents of violence.”
“We thank the voters for coming out to vote in significant numbers. We would also like to thank the state machinery, security forces, and nodal officers in various states for their support to ensure smooth polling,” local news daily Hindustan Times quoted Sinha as saying.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, local News agency Press Trust of India reported that Indian security personnel fired in the air at a polling place after some people without identity cards tried to forcibly enter to cast their votes. The report said in the state of Maharashtra, Communist Naxals triggered an IED near a polling place in Gadchiroli while voting was underway. No casualties were reported.
The Indian Election Commission was tweeting pictures of voters during the day standing in long queues outside polling places to cast their votes.
During the polls on Thursday, social media was abuzz that many voters found their names missing from the voter rolls.
Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of the capital New Delhi, said on Twitter: “Reports coming from all across India that voters have been deleted on an unprecedented scale.”
Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister in Jammu and Kashmir, in the disputed region of Kashmir, said on Twitter, “Imagine the disappointment a 91-year-old senior citizen feels when he goes all the way to vote & finds his name missing. This is the first time he hasn’t been able to exercise his right to vote. Why is there such conspicuous pin drop silence over such discrepancies?
With the world’s largest electorate -- nearly 900 million -- the elections in India will be held in seven phases through May 19, the counting will be held on May 23, and the results are expected to be announced the same day.
The ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the biggest contender in the elections, with current Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a second term.
- Jammu and Kashmir
In Jammu and Kashmir, the elections were held in two constituencies of Jammu and Baramulla on Thursday. According to the Election Commission of India, the voting turnout in the state up to 5 p.m. (1130GMT) was 54.49%. While Jammu saw 72.16%, Baramulla got 34.61% turnout, according to officials.
The low voter percentage in Baramulla was apparently due to the election boycott called for by the region’s pro-independence leadership. The end of the polling saw pro/independence protests. One schoolboy was killed in police firing over the protests in Handwara, north Kashmir.
The boy “had multiple pellet injuries on the chest, neck and abdomen,” Mohammed Rouf, a senior health official in Handwara, told Anadolu Agency.
Earlier in the day, many young people came out to vote in the town. “This is my first time voting because I feel there is a threat to my identity. The right-wing BJP is out to strip the special status of Kashmiris. My vote is to keep away from Kashmir,” said Arjumand, 20, a student, referring to a controversial BJP election pledge made on Tuesday.
The next polling in India is scheduled for next Thursday, April 18.
By Ahmad Adil in Chandigarh, India and Zahid Rafiq in Srinagar, Jammu &Kashmir