In the early morning hours of Saturday in the foothills of Harwan, 23 year old Shaista Bajran is having her first brush with a local body election in her life. Waiting outside the polling booth, she is one among the three female candidates contesting District Development Council (DDC) elections on Fakir Gujri seat in upper Dara belt of Harwan.
Youngest among the trio, Shaista, a final year college student is accompanied by her father and other family members to cast their vote. She is contesting as an independent candidate saying that the issues facing their community has made her stand in the local body elections.
“At first I was reluctant to contest but the support from the family and my aim to give a voice to my downtrodden community made me contest. You can see for yourself that despite being part of Srinagar, we are lagging decades behind the rest of Srinagar. This is one of the reasons that I have decided to play my part in the development of my area,” Shaista said.
“Our community is persecuted and our females are facing many issues. It is good for our women to have a voice from their own clan. Recently we saw how our people are being harassed and evicted from forests, if we don’t have our own voice how can we help our community?” she asked.
In the DDC seat of Fakir Gujri, which is reserved for women, three women are contesting, two of them in their early 20s. The voter turnout as per the locals is better than last polls held here in 2018 local body elections.
24-year old Shazia Parveen is another woman who is contesting the election. She is contesting on the mandate of NC through People’s Alliance. She said that there are a lot of issues which their community is facing.
“Most of these issues are development related but today my aim is also to defeat the communal forces who have left no stone unturned to divide people,” she said. The third woman in the trio is 55-year old Fareeda.
In addition to one DDC seat there is one vacant seat of Sarpanch in Fakir Gujri on which 38 year old Shamima Bano is contesting along with another woman. She said that she is contesting on the mandate of the National Conference. Shamima who has been block president of NC in the area told the Greater Kashmir that she is contesting to work on grass root level for the community. Along with Shamima, there is another woman namely Shabnam Bano who is contesting as an independent.
Shamima is also contesting on a DDC seat from Dara Harwan, an area adjacent to Fakir Gujri. Shamima said that she is the only female candidate contesting in Dara DDC seat along with three other male candidates.
“People were reluctant to contest here in Dara first. I stepped up to break the ice and contest as a DDC candidate in addition to my Fakir Gujri Sarpanch seat. As I filed the papers, others also stepped in and now you can see there is a beeline of voters. I have confidence that I will win in Fakir Gujri where I am contesting as Sarpanch, however in Dara it is a neck to neck contest. There are a host of issues facing our community especially women,” she said.