Neelam Gaash, first Shia woman to contest Assembly election

Iqbal KirmaniNeelam Gaash, first Shia woman
Srinagar: Her name, Neelam Gaash, means “light of sapphire”. From being an obscure youth Congress worker to BJP’s candidate for Zadibal constituency, she has catapulted onto Kashmir’s hot political scene as a flash of pretty light.
Neelam is the first female Shia to contest an Assembly election. After her nomination, her Facebook page has recorded 750 followers. Other users rave about her good looks and lament that she is debuting for a right-wing party hell bent on turning Kashmir topsy-turvy.
Neelam worked as a relationship manager in an IT company outside the state before joining politics. She has been running an NGO, Madawa (remedy), since 2009.
She joined the Youth Congress as its state secretary in 2011 but left the organisation in 2012 to work full time for the NGO that, according to her, is working for rehabilitation of drug addicts, dowry victims and people affected by depression.
“Usually, election ticket is not given to freshers but my party believes in change and the youth are the agents of change. I am 100 percent optimistic about my victory,” Neelam said.
Asked whether she was appealing to woman voters, she said, “It is not only about being a woman. It is about the development and all the youth will accept me and I have seen enthusiasm among them.”
Like her senior party leaders, she said the people of the state are tired of the “family rule” and rampant corruption.
Her other priority, Neelam said, is restoring Kashmir handicrafts as the backbone of local economy.
“Kashmir art has been stolen over the years by non-Kashmiris and they have brought bad name to Kashmiri handicrafts by selling imitations and fakes and by bringing in corrupt practices in the trade,” she said.
Neelam is contesting against Afaq Peer of National Conference and debutant Molvi Abid Hussain Ansari who enjoys sympathy after the death of his brother and prominent Shia cleric Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari.

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