Press Trust of India

LS Polls: Engineer Rashid’s two sons cast their first votes for ‘truth, justice’

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Langate: Having led the election campaign for their father, currently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail in a terror-funding case, Engineer Rashid’s two sons — both first-time voters — exercised their franchise with the hope of seeing him emerge successful from the electoral contest and walk out of prison.

Abdul Rashid Sheikh alias Engineer Rashid, a former two-time MLA who heads the Awami Ittehad Party, is one of 22 candidates in the fray from Baramulla, where polling is underway in the fifth phase on Monday.

Besides Rashid, the National Conference’s Omar Abdullah, People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone, People’s Democratic Party leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Mir Fayaz are the other notable hopefuls.

Rashid was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2019 on charges of terror-funding activities, becoming the first mainstream leader to be held under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

His two sons Abrar Rashid and Asrar Rashid, who led the election campaign for their father, expressed confidence that the massive crowds witnessed in the rallies will turn into votes for Rashid, leading to his release from prison.

“I have full faith that the people who showed so much enthusiasm and determination over the last 10-12 days will come out and cast their votes. I cast my vote for the first time and I voted for my father,” Abrar told reporters.

He said there must be scores of others, even those in the 40-50 age bracket, who will cast their votes for the first time and they will vote for their father.

“My father has been in jail for five years now. His arrest made the election campaign difficult. In the initial days, I thought I was alone but the people kept joining me without any greed and that is when I realised that not only north Kashmir but the entire Kashmir stands with me,” Abrar said.

Rashid won the Langate assembly segment in 2008 and 2014 and also unsuccessfully contested the 2019 parliamentary elections. While he leads the Awami Ittehad Party, he is contesting these elections as an Independent.

Expressing his happiness that the entire Kashmir has come to “stand with him”, Abrar said, “I am very happy that they heard the voice of their conscience and joined me and supported justice and the truth.”

“We have tried to convey our message and I am sure the people will listen to the voice of their heart and understand the difference between an oppressor and the oppressed. And, inshallah (God willing), they will side with the truth and justice,” he added.

Abrar further said that his father always listened to the people and raised his voice for their rights within and outside the assembly.

“The people know that only Engineer Rashid can represent their aspirations and that is why they want him out of jail. So, I think the people will reject the traditional parties and choose a leader who will represent them,” he said.

Abrar said his father’s case is being heard by a special NIA court.

“I have got an opportunity to bring him out of jail with the help of the people and their votes. That is the only reason I started this campaign, otherwise I had no interest in politics,” he said.

Expressing confidence about his father winning the north Kashmir seat, he said, “The government will have to respect the people’s opinion … because, when three-four lakh people choose him to represent them, the government has to accept and respect their verdict. If Engineer Rashid is not released, it will be an injustice to the voters.”

Abrar also asked the people to vote in large numbers and said the earlier politics of boycott only harmed the public as it favoured those who were “incompetent and misfit” to represent them.

Rashid’s other son Asrar said his first vote was for his father and justice.

“People will come out and vote for justice. We made our best effort and we are thankful to the people who connected with us voluntarily for our jailed father,” he said, expressing his faith in the judiciary and the innocence of his father.


Press Trust of India

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