Ex-militant bastion in J&K seeks peace

Ex-militant bastion in J&K seeks peace

Ex-militant bastion in J&K seeks peace

Once a stronghold of militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahdeen (HM), this small north Kashmir hamlet on the banks of the famous river Jhelum yearns for peace today.

There is hardly any family in the village, with a population of around 5,000, which hasn’t lost any member in the years of brutal conflict.

According to inhabitants, the village lost more than 120 young men in the vortex of violence from 1990 to 2004, as the area served as the heartland for battle between the HM and the nearby Rashtriya Rifles unit in Mansbal Garrison.

“I shudder to remember those bloody years of conflict, when killings were the order of the day here. Nobody in the village could sleep properly due to fear psychosis back then,” said local resident Mushtaq Ahmad, 45.

He said after militancy started waning in Kashmir from 2004, “We have had some reprieve.”

Before the onset of militancy, the village, part of the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency, was a thriving hub of orchidists. But years of violence have badly affected the economy of the area.

With the return of relative peace, the villagers are gearing up to vote in the upcoming elections, hoping the democratic process will assuage the effects of violence they have encountered so far.

“We will vote for a candidate who can heal our wounds and play a role in the social reconstruction of the area. There are a number of widows and orphans in the village who have no source of sustenance. We hope the candidate we will vote for will take care of these burning social issues,” septuagenarian Taja Begum told Deccan Herald.

Though no political party organised any rally or show in the village, first-time voters in the area are enthusiastic about exercising their franchise. “I am keen to vote for the candidate who can help us get rid of unemployment. Our village has always been ignored by successive regimes on the pretext that people abstain from voting. But this time we will prove them wrong and vote to maximum extent,” said college student Irfan Khan.

Asked whether there would be any impact of a boycott call by separatists on polling in the village, he said, “Boycott calls and violence have given nothing to Kashmiris. I lost several of my relatives in gory incidents of militancy. We hope the democratic process will lead us to peace and prosperity.”