DDC polls: 7 women contest for a seat in remote J&K

In a remote Kashmiri district, seven women battle for education and development

This is the first election in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of Article 370

DDC polls in Kashmir. Credit: AFP Photo

As Kashmir gears up for the first phase of polls after the abrogation of Article 370, seven women from the district of Dangiwacha are going toe-to-toe for the reserved seat, according to a News18 report.

Aarti Nehru, one of the seven women, has been campaigning for the District Development Council (DDC) polls that are being held today. 

Shuttling between villages, she has promised to address issues such as repair of roads, culverts and improving the power supply in the district.

“I am put off by the non-existent facilities in our villages. Nothing has changed here for so many years,” she told News18. 

Alleging that the previous representatives have never helped the poorer population, she said that as an independent candidate she doesn’t have any strings attached and will be the agent of change if elected. 

Read: Amid tight security, polling underway for first phase of DDC elections in J&K

Contesting from Muslim-dominated population, Nehru said, “Religion does not matter in Kashmir. It is the only place where there are no religious biases.” 

Competing against Nehru is lawyer-turned-politician Ruqaya Fayaz (23) who has already made herself familiar with the younger women by raising awareness on women’s issues in the villages.

“Women should pursue education, earn and stand on their feet,” she tells a group of young girls in scarfs and pherans in a rally, the publication reported.

Fayaz has also set up a non-profit trust to train young girls in handicrafts and such. Using her knowledge of the justice system, she has been able to introduce several central schemes in the villages. 

Focussing on the indigenous population, 30-year-old Parmeet Kaur has been campaigning hard. She is affiliated to the People’s Conference. 

Talking about her campaigns to the publication, she said, “I talk about schools, proper sewage disposal, roads and nullas and people seem to be very keen to give me a chance.”

“Their children (indigenous groups) have no access to good schools, a good education. They have to walk long distances as there are no road-links to the hills. Power remains snapped for weeks together in winter,” she said. “They are the most deprived community and there is a dire need to intervene,” she added.

Giving stiff competition to Kaur, is Tasleema Bano, an erstwhile life insurance agent who is fielded by Altaf Bukharis's Apni Party.

Dangiwacha district is a reserved seat for women. As many as 1,475 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of the polls, the officials said. Out of these, 296 candidates are contesting the first phase of the DDC polls in the union territory.

The election is being seen as a triangular contest between the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) -- an amalgam of several mainstream political parties, including the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which are seeking the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir's special status revoked by the Centre last year -- and the BJP, and Apni Party floated by former finance minister Altaf Bukhari.