Defying the election boycott call of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists and separatists, 74.1 per cent votes were polled on Saturday in the first of the 9-phase polling for the panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, even as terrorists burnt down a panchayat office in Kupwara district that registered 71.9 per cent polling earlier in the day.

A High percentage of polling was registered in the Kashmir valley where at places the polling percentage did not go beyond single digit during the recently held municipal elections.

According to official figures, the highest polling percentage of 83.6 % was registered in Udhampur followed by 80% in Kathua.

Except Budgam, Ganderbal and Srinagar in the Kashmir valley where the polling percentage was 30.1, 11.9 and 21.8 respectively, the other 12 districts witnessed more than 55% turnout.

Terrorists and separatists had given a call for poll boycott and also for shutdown.

Polling was held for 47 panchayat blocks in the state during the first phase.
Districtwise polling percentage was; Kupwara (71.9), Bandipura (55.7), Baramulla (69.1), Kishtwar (74.1), Doda (80.8), Ramban (78.2), Rajouri (78.9) and Poonch (78.7).

Kargil and Leh, where the temperature was minus 8.2 degrees Celsius, registered 70.9 and 59.7 percent polling respectively.

CRPF and police were deployed in full strength to prevent any untoward incident. The polling passed off peacefully, said the police.

In North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, however, a panchayat building was set on fire in Reshwari Khan Mohalla of Nutnussa village in the evening by unidentified persons.

Firemen rushed to the spot as soon as the news of the incident was received. However, the building was completely gutted.