Displaced Kashmiri Pandits Vote For Homeland, Peace In Kashmir

JAMMU: Displaced Kashmiri Pandits turned out enthusiastically in large numbers to vote for the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency at various polling stations in Jammu, seeking peace and the establishment of their ‘homeland’ in the Kashmir Valley.

In the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections for Kashmir’s Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, nearly 52 per cent of the 18.36 lakh eligible voters cast their votes. This includes nearly 40 per cent of the over 27,000 Kashmiri Pandits, who voted at 34 special polling stations set up for the community in Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi.

The Kashmiri Pandits, some of whom travelled from outside the Union Territory to vote, emphasized the need for a permanent restoration of peace and the creation of a safe homeland in the Valley.

“I have voted for development and security of the nation. We want to strengthen the government. We want to get back to our homeland, and this government should work towards restoring our homeland with the dignity of our community,” Sushma Bhat, a voter from erstwhile Kulgam district, told PTI.

Sushma, who travelled from Surat to vote for the first time for her home constituency at the Muthi polling station here, highlighted the need for setting up a big smart city to reconnect the community with their roots, emphasizing that such initiatives would foster a sense of homeland.

“There are smart cities set up by the Central government in all the states and Union Territories in the country. One or two big smart cities should be set up for our community in the Valley to reconnect us to our roots. It will be a homeland feeling for us. Nobody should have a problem with this,” she said.

She urged the political leaders to view the issue as a humanitarian concern, advocating for a secure space for the community to return to the Valley.

Like her, Sandeep Koul, whose father and grandfather were assassinated by the militants in the 1990s, called for a safe, singular settlement for Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.

“We want a one place settlement where security and safety are paramount. This will restore the dignity of our community, which has been in exile for the past 35 years. We need justice from the Modi government. It is a test for this government,” said Koul, who voted at the Chinore polling station.

Polling, which began at 7 am at all 2,338 polling stations, including 34 special stations for the migrants, saw a 51.88 per cent turnout by 5 pm.

Anil Bhan, the president of the Kashmiri Migrant Camp in Muthi, expressed his satisfaction with the increased voter turnout.

“We are recording a historic 40 to 50 percent turnout this time, compared to previous elections where only two to five per cent of votes were cast. This is our right and we will use it to vote for those who will ensure our bright future. Return and rehabilitation is the first demand of the community,” Bhan said.

Most of the displaced voters at different polling stations in Jammu urged the government to facilitate their return and rehabilitation in the Valley.

“People want to go back to their roots but feel unsafe. The government should work in that direction,” said Rozy Raina.

75-year old voter and former educationist P N Bhat expressed his satisfaction by voting away from home polling station in Kulgam.

“I have vote for peace and progress of Kashmir besides strengthening of the nation, its unity, integrity and sovereignty,” he said.

Long queues were seen at various polling stations in Jammu from the start of polling. Over 26,000 displaced Kashmiri Pandit voters were eligible to vote at 34 polling stations in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency.

Relief Commissioner Dr Arvind Karwani expressed satisfaction over the higher voter turnout.

“There was nearly 40 per cent polling by KPs and there is a huge response and rush at each polling station. It is higher polling percentage than in previous years,” he said.

The Anantnag constituency has sealed the fate of candidates as 51.88 per cent of 18.36 lakh voters, including 9.02 lakh women, voted at 2,338 polling stations.

The main contest is between PDP chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference’s Mian Altaf Ahmad. Other notable candidates include Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Manhas and DPAP’s Mohammad Saleem Parray. (PTI)

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