Press Trust of India

Out of boycott-call shadow, Baramulla town votes for a ‘voice in Parliament’

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Soibugh: Voters thronged polling stations in large numbers in Soibugh as voting got underway in north Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency on Monday, expressing satisfaction over the improved security situation and the fading “fear” of separatist-sponsored boycott calls of the past three decades.

The voters see the first major electoral exercise in the Union Territory post the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 as an opportunity to give vent to their feelings on the developments in the region over the past almost five-year period.

Soibugh, the home town of Syed Sallahuddin, the Pakistan-based supremo of proscribed terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, lies in the Budgam district of central Kashmir and is part of the Baramulla constituency, where National Conference leader Omar Abdullah is among the 22 candidates in the fray.

“The situation has improved and fear faded and that is a good omen for democracy. The people mostly did not vote in the past due to the threat to their lives but, this time, brisk voting is taking place without interference from any quarters,” Abdul Ahad Bhat, a local villager, said after casting his vote.

He was referring to the decline in terror activities over the past couple of years and the absence of any boycott call by separatists this time. The boycott politics was introduced in the Valley with the eruption of terrorism in the early 1990s, with the Hurriyat Conference — that used to spearhead the campaign — claiming that the Centre is using elections to mislead the international community and delay the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Bhat, however, said, “We have come to vote for the redress of our problems and select a candidate who can represent our voice in Parliament.”

Mohammad Yawar, another voter, said unemployment is one of the biggest issues the people are facing, along with increased power bills.

“We are getting electricity bills more than our consumption. Since there is no government in place for over five years and Jammu and Kashmir is run by the Lt Governor-led administration, we are unable to raise our voice,” he said.

Yawar said people in the Valley have been “dumbstruck” after the abrogation of Article 370.

“Nobody is willing to talk openly and nobody is ready to listen to us. This is an opportunity for us to choose our leader who can hear us and resolve our issues,” he said.

Ghulam Rasool Malik said people are under pressure after 2019 and, wanting to give vent to their feelings, have decided to break all turnout records.

“There is no democracy in Jammu and Kashmir after the imposition of governor’s rule. We used to raise our problems with our easily-available representatives but now there is nobody to listen to us,” Malik said, highlighting the need for holding assembly elections to restore a popular government in the Union Territory.

“Sadak, paani and bijli (road, water and electricity) continue to dominate the issues, along with development activities. The people have come out to vote in large numbers to choose their candidate and we are hopeful of a record-breaking turnout,” he said.

The constituency recorded a voter turnout of more than 45 per cent till 3 pm on Monday, already registering its highest polling percentage in almost four decades.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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