Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, 65, has voted in every election since he turned 18. He went out to vote again today, along with his family members, including his two disabled daughters, in Bumdooru area of Kokernag, Anantnag district.
“I have a big reason to vote for the candidate for whom I am voting today. I want the candidate to persuade New Delhi to resolve the Kashmir issue once and for all so that peace prevails permanently. Then I want my both daughters to get married. The candidate I voted for should sanction a financial assistance in my favour so that I can start my own venture and get my both daughters married in a dignified manner,” Bhat said.
Translating the message of his two daughters—Mehjabeen, 22, and Sumi Jan, 21, who are speech and hearing impaired, Bhat said, “Today my daughters have voted for the first time and we all have changed sides and voted for someone who has to speak loudly about much awaited peace in Kashmir in the Parliament. So far whosoever was elected to the Parliament preferred to remain silent over sufferings of Kashmiris.”
“It is their first vote and they should get the reward. There are many jobs for the specially-abled women and my daughters want jobs as they deserve it the most,” he said.
Bhat said he pleaded before the polling staff to allow him to show his daughters which button to press on the electronic voting machine (EVM), but he was told that “it was unethical.”
At the polling station established at a government high school, out of 916 votes registered, 50 were polled in one booth and in the other, out of 753 total votes, 85 were polled by 3pm.
“This time we hope our votes won’t go in vain. Our vote should act as a morale booster for the one whom we voted for. We should see our representative speaking in the Parliament about the need of peaceful atmosphere in Kashmir and also the resolution of the (Kashmir) issue,” said an elderly man, outside the polling station. Others echoed him.
Bomdooru is the village where the young militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit Burhan Muzafar Wani was killed on 8 July 2016.
Meanwhile, the Kamad village on the outskirts of Verinag area in southern Anantnag district Tuesday saw long queues of voters who were jostling to cast their votes for their favourite candidates. However, the road leading to the village witnessed clashes between security forces and young boys, disrupting the traffic movement and the electoral exercise.
According to local residents, Kamad, some 12 kilometers from Verinag, is home to a vast majority of nomadic population. It has been a voters’ hub for a long time, they said.
“We are voting to protect our identity and special status,” said a group of voters, standing in a long queue at a polling station.
Waiting desperately for his turn to cast his vote, Nizamudin, a local resident, said the identity of entire Jammu and Kashmir is “under threat” and “we have no reason to stay away from voting today”.
“Earlier, we had been voting for our day today issues, but today, it’s the vote for safeguarding the interests of Kashmir,” he said.
Kamad is located on a hillock and its residents say the power of their vote “should echo in the Parliament”.
“Gone are the days when people of Kashmir would vote in haste and out of their ego or hatred. Today, we are all mature and we will wait to see the result of our votes,” said another voter, who identified himself as Ali Jan.
A group of women voters said “to vote is our right and we will ensure this time that all the centrally-sponsored schemes for welfare of women reach us”.
“The candidate, for whom we are voting today, has to be accountable to us tomorrow and this time no excuses will work.”
At a polling booth here, out of 950 votes, 678 were polled till 2pm, even as people in large numbers continued to wait for their voting turn.
As the voting was in full swing, clashes rocked Verinag area as masked youth, in small groups, were seen hurling rocks and bricks at the security forces and their vehicles.
“We have been ordered to use minimum force to disperse the stone-pelters,” a CRPF man, on poll duty at Verinag, said.