Kashmir Ignores Geelani Call, 78% Vote In Phase I Of Rural Polls15 April 2011
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Ignoring the boycott call given by hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, four Kashmir areas on Wednesday turned out to vote for the state’s first panchayat polls in 10 years in overwhelming numbers. By the time polling came to a close, 86.2 per cent in the frontier district of Kupwara had exercised their franchise, while the overall figure stood at around 78 per cent. It’s got nothing to do with “azaadi” or the Kashmir struggle, Ghulam Hassan Dar, a grocery shop owner in Bodana village, explained. “For resolution of our day-to-day problems, we came out to vote.” Those who oppose participation of people in panchayat elections couldn’t understand their compulsions, he said. “We don’t have proper roads, drinking water facilities or other amenities. At least, these new representatives can strive for these on behalf of the village.” For the first phase, more than 2,800 candidates were in the fray. No incident was reported from any part of the Valley. While Kangan saw 77.8 per cent polling, Budgam recorded 72 per cent, Quimouh (Main) 77.87 per cent and Quimouh (Partly) 77.34 per cent. There was high turnout in the Jammu province too, with 80.49 per cent voting in Udhampur, 82 per cent in Samba and 80 per cent. In villages of Budgam district, people jostled to cast their votes, most of them youths. At some polling booths, women outnumbered the men. “This is the first time that I am getting an opportunity to elect a representative who will solve problems of my neighbourhood,” said Ghulam Mohammad Gania, at a polling booth in Bodana village. “I am sure if good and honest people get elected, problems of villagers will get redressed.” Wajahat Waseem, a 26-year-old graduate in forestry, is among the eight contestants standing for the posts of panchs and sarpanchs in Parlor. He promises to bring change, saying: “For development of villages, there are many state and centrally sponsored schemes. Unfortunately, a majority of the villagers are unaware about these schemes and their rights... I will try to force officials to utilise funds in proper schemes.” Saleema Begum, a housewife at a polling booth in Razwen village, said: “Being poor we can never catch hold of our Assembly member or Parliament member who lives in Srinagar, Jammu or Delhi. But, for resolution of day-to-day problems, we can knock on the doors of our panchs or sarpanchs.” In Kangan, 40 km away, the scenes were no different. A majority of those at the booths were first-time voters. At Checkpora village, as many as 170 of the 186 registered cast their votes - the highest turnout in the area.