Taunted 'Pakistani' youth refuse to cast their ballot in Kashmir

“They (government officials) call us Pakistanis, why should we vote,” was the answer of a group of youth who were strolling on the deserted streets in this central Kashmir hamlet, some 18 km from Srinagar.

The village is the native place of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) based Hizbul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salah-ud-Din.  “He (Salah-ud-Din) is our leader. He had contested elections in 1987 and believed in democracy. But he lost faith in democracy when National Conference with the help of New Delhi rigged 87 elections and put Yosuf sahib (Salah-ud-Din) behind the bars,” said a government employee who identified himself as Irfan Ahmad. 

He said that Salah-ud-Din was forced to pick up the gun. “When you close all the doors of democracy for someone what option is left except gun,” he asked.

Government punishment

Syed Maqsood, nephew of Salah-ud-Din said people of the area have been completely punished and ignored by the successive governments. 

“Whenever people from this area demand basic amenities like proper roads, drinking water and electricity, authorities and politicians taunt them by dubbing them ‘you are Pakistanis, go to Salah-ud-Din and ask him for these facilities’,” Maqsood, who teaches in a private school, told Deccan Herald.

In two polling booths (35-C and 37-E) in the village out of 1835 votes, only 52 voters cast their votes till 2 pm. However, the situation in the neighbouring Nasrullahpora village was slightly different. 

At pooling booth number 22-Nasrullahpora-B, 173 votes had been polled out of 1090 till 1 pm. But the mood of the majority of the people was same in the village. Ghulam Mohammad Wani, 75, says he used to vote even at the peak of militancy. “I used to vote with a hope that the government one day will provide at least basic amenities to our village which has more than 1500 households. 

But, whenever we approach the authorities for the same they sarcastically tell us that we should approach Pakistan for these facilities. We are being labelled anti-nationals and supporters of thereek (freedom movement),” Wani said. 

Another septuagenarian Haji Ghulam Mohammad Dar echoed the same views. “It is true we protested against the unjustified hanging of Afzal Guru and also from time to time we protested against the atrocities of security forces. But does that disqualify us from being Indian citizens,” he asked.

He blamed the mainstream political parties for fuelling anti-India sentiment in the hearts of Kashmiris. “They say one thing in Kashmir and change their tone when they reach Delhi,” he rued.

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