After bullet, former militants take to ballot in Anantnag
30 September 2002
The Indian Express
Anantnag: When south Kashmir’s Anantnag district goes to polls on Tuesday, a big chunk of the six lakh voters looking for 10 honest candidates will recollect that at least eight among them were former ‘‘aazadi’’ gunslingers who became counter-insurgents. Liyaqat Ali, who is contesting on an Awami League ticket, which is believed to be the political extension of the counter-insurgent J-K Ikhwan, was its chief commander. After over three years in counter-insurgency, he is now the vice-chairman of the Kukka Parrey-headed Awami League. A skilled orator with education at his service, he is seen as someone who has matured into an acceptable politician, one who wants to forget and make people forget about his past. Ali is contesting against Mirza Mehboob Beigh, the son of legendary south Kashmir politician Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beigh. Many say that to ‘‘improve his image’’, Ali campaigned door-to-door. ‘‘It shows he has mellowed and bowed before the people, the masters of democracy,’’ said a supporter. But many say they will prefer a corrupt regime to people who have ‘‘unleashed terror in the past’’. ‘‘I have lost two sons to Ikhwans,’’ said a voter at Devsar, Kulgam. Awami League’s Ghulam Qadir Kulley, a former militant, is fighting from Devsar. A few have got BJP tickets. Like Sofi Mohammad Yousuf, a former policeman turned militant, contesting from Bijbehera where two former militants, Mohammad Ashraf Beig and Mohammad Ashraf Thakroo are contesting. Beig is an Independent while Thakroo is an Awami League nominee. In militancy-hit Kokernag, Fayaz Ahmad Wani, a former Ikhwan has a League ticket. Altaf Ahmad Padder, a former militant-turned Ikhwani, is facing NC’s Sakina Itoo in Noorabad.