South Asian Insider
Braving the storm, Kashmiri Pandits file nominations for J&K civic polls
(By Our Staff Reporter) When a 28-year-old Kashmiri migrant Pandit filed his nomination papers for municipal elections in south Kashmir’s Kulgam on Tuesday, he was wary of the camera held by the officials, as a necessary protocol. The young Pandit wanted to do it in absolute secrecy. He later agreed after being assured that the video or the pictures, necessary for the official records, would not be shared publicly. Immediately after filing the nomination papers, he flew back to Jammu where he has been living since early nineties, after migrating from Kulgam due to eruption of militancy in the valley. The young Pandit is part of a small group of 15 people who filed nominations for 21 wards of Kulgam and Devsar in the district in the first phase of urban local body polls which are scheduled to begin from October 8 to 16. It was learnt that atleast 2 candidates in this small group are migrant Pandits. These nominations mean that one-third of wards will remain empty in Kulgam. Official sources said that seven wards in the district have drawn a blank while in rest of the 15 wards majority of the candidates will become councillors uncontested. Threat of militancy, boycott calls The elections are happening amid threats from militants, boycott calls from separatists and abstention from two main mainstream parties Peoples’ Democratic Party and National Conference. South Kashmir has emerged as hotbed of militancy in the state with majority of local recruits from the region. Hizbul Mujhideen commander Riyaz Naikoo has threatened candidates who intend to fight elections to get shrouds for themselves besides asking local policemen to resign from their jobs. Three policemen were killed after they were abducted from their homes in Kulgam’s neighbouring district of Shopian last Friday. “It was my own decision. I want to work for development of the people. I know about the threats but why would anybody harm me when I have done no wrong. Besides whatever will be in my destiny I am going to get that,” said the young Pandit candidate, an MBA, who left the Valley when he was four. The young Pandit said he received tremendous respect from the locals everytime he visits Kashmir. “People have been inviting me to their homes. Nobody has ever bothered me here,” he said requesting anonymity but insisting to mention the name of his little known Manav-Adhikar National Party. Overall the atmosphere in south Kashmir has been subdued if not antagonistic against the upcoming exercise. Police maintain strict vigilance “We have ensured all the facilities are intact and the security is up to the mark,” said Kulgam deputy commissioner Shamim Ahmad Wani, the election officer for the district, adding, “When PDP and NC are not fighting, the response will be obviously affected.” The officials have been very evasive about the number and details of the candidates filing nominations. Most of the candidates who have filed nominations are expected to be associated with Congress and BJP who have announced to fight the elections. Locals fear bloodshed Many of the locals don’t want to be associated with the entire exercise. “The situation is very bad. People are dying here and you are talking about polls,” said a shopkeeper in Kulgam town. A student of Anantnag town said that there will be too much bloodshed if polls went ahead. “There is too much tension. Bohut Khoon Kharaba hoga. There have been boycott calls, police killings and militant threats. People are not in the mood,” he said. In Bijbehara town, a trader said that the political process has shrunk to a point where the people don’t want to be associated with anything related to state. “Earlier the political process used to go alongside the militancy. There would be room for each other. But the muscular policy of BJP government has lost Kashmir for India. The BJP is winning in rest of the country at the cost of Kashmir,” he said.
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