Tulmulla (Ganderbal): Bansi Lal says he seldom hurts feelings of his Muslim neighbours, and when it comes to elections, he decides to vote or not to vote only after watching the trend among his neighbours.
On Wednesday, when Kashmir went for second phase of Lok Sabha polls, Bansi, a lone Kashmiri Pandit in Muslim locality of Tulmulla, decided to stay home.
“I have lived with my Muslim friends and I prefer not to hurt their feelings. The whole village is following election boycott call given by Hurriyat Conference,” Bansi said. “So am I.”
But it is not always that he has boycotted elections. In 2002 assembly elections, Bansi said he voted for People’s Democratic Party (PDP) when his village decided to “get rid of the family rule” of National Conference.
“For me, PDP, NC, Congress or any other political party does not mean anything. My first choice is the choice of my villagers,” said Bansi.
Bansi, 45, who is popularly known as Kaka Jee among his friends, did not leave his home when most of Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Valley in 1990 after the eruption of anti-India militancy.
Significantly, Bansi decided to stay put in the Valley even after his all family members, including two brothers and mother, migrated to Jammu.
“My attachment with my land prompted me to stay here. This is my ‘matriboomi’ (motherland), I will live and die here only even if I have to stay alone whole life,” Bansi said, adding that with the support of his Muslim friends, and his “faith in saints in Kashmir” he did not fear to stay here alone.
“I have faith in Tulmulla shrine and Dastigeer Sahib and I always live under their blessings, so there is nothing to fear about,” said Bansi who room is filled with portraits of sacred places and saints belonging to different religions.“I only believe in God and religions don’t mean anything to me,” said Bansi.
The love for the land is so deep in Bansi that he even decided not to marry as it was difficult for him to get a match in Kashmir. “But now the time has changed and I think I can marry now and I am looking for a match,” said Bansi.
Outside his modest three-storey house, the village, which houses the famous Hindu shrine of Khir Bhawani, was deserted, with shops closed and main streets guarded by police and CRPF.
A group of youths who had assembled outside the polling station at village centre told Kashmir Reader they were keeping a “tight vigil on polling agents not to allow them to get bogus voters from outside.”
“Our village was notoriously called as Jammu city’s Raghunath Bazaar for not observing strike call or election boycott, but this time we want to show to the world that we don’t endorse elections,” the youths said.
“We will never forget that 120 people were killed in 2010 and Mohammad Afzal Guru was hanged. How can we vote for the people responsible for such things,” they added.
The polling booth in the village also wore a deserted look and was guarded by police and CRPF personnel from inside. At booth 45 and 48, not a single vote was polled till noon out of 510 and 661 registered voters, respectively, while at booth number 47-D and 49-F, five and six votes were polled out of 1000 registered voters each.