DDC polls: Centenarian granny undertakes treacherous mountain trek to vote in J&K's Doda

Zaitona Bibi (103) after casting her vote for DDC polls in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, 28 November 2020. Tahir Nadeem Khan Yousafzai/GK

103-year-old granny, Zaitona Bibi, claims she hasn’t missed a single occasion to vote in all the elections since 1957, when the process began in Jammu and Kashmir.

On Saturday morning, the grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of 56 children, who hails from remote Kota-Top village of Kharangal Panchayat in Gandoh tehsil of Doda district, walked a treacherous mountain terrain to make sure that she votes in the DDC polls, being held for the first time in J&K.

“For the past 63 years, I have never missed a single occasion to vote. Since my first time, I make sure that I don’t miss a single chance to vote,” said Bibi, who was accompanied by her son’s grand daughter Rabia Bano (24) to Gujjar Basti polling station, located one kilometre from her house.

Zaitona Bibi (103) after casting her vote for DDC polls in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, 28 November 2020. Tahir Nadeem Khan Yousafzai/GK

Noting that much hasn’t changed in the past more than 70 years in the hills inhabited by thousands of poor tribal population of cattle rearing community, the elderly woman said life continues to be difficult for them. “Every time I go out to vote with the hope that the winning candidate would work for much-needed infrastructural development of the area,” she told Greater Kashmir.

“We need potable water and good roads here, many of our villages still remain unconnected which creates lot of problem for us, we need good hospitals,” she listed the reasons behind voting.

Rabia said that when they informed ‘Nani’ that their constituency has been reserved for Scheduled Tribe category and that they would have a representative of their own, she became ecstatic and has been waiting eagerly since for the polling day.

A health service official records the temperature of Zaitona Bibi (103) before she casts her vote. Tahir Nadeem Khan Yousafzai/GK

“She is an inspiration to all of us, as she always motivates us to be part of the democratic process. This motivates poor tribal population to fight for their rights,” said Miskeen Ali Khatana of Kota Top hamlet.

From her tribal representative, the centenarian expects that it would finally open avenues of development in the tribal areas and unemployed youth in the area including her grandchildren get jobs. “I want employment for my grandchildren as they remain unemployed,” said Bibi, who is mother to 56 great-grandchildren.

For her family which comprises more than 110 registered voters, the elderly woman has been an inspiration.

A good voter turnout was witnessed in the area with people queuing up outside polling booths to cast their votes despite the winter chill.