Sonawari: In the 2008 Assembly elections, Meraj-ud-Din was an avid supporter of the azadi camp in Sumbal area of Sonawari constituency. He and his friends would ensure election boycott by throwing stones on the polling booths. But the 2010 agitation “changed everything” after police slapped a case of stone pelting against him.
“I never used to vote,” Meraj, a 33-year-old businessman, told Kashmir Reader outside a polling booth at Inderkote on Tuesday. “Today I am voting for the PDP.”
He said he did not need employment or any other benefit from elections. His only demand is that the case registered against him be withdrawn “as promised by the PDP in the election meetings.”
“When I was arrested, nobody came forward to help me. PDP nominee Yasir Reshi accompanied me to the police station. NC workers had leaked our names to the police so that we could be arrested.
“Recently, PDP’s Muzaffar Hussain Baig assured us that our cases would be withdrawn within seven days of their government formation. Everyone is doing business here, we don’t seek employment,” Meraj said as he and his friends waited in a queue outside the polling booth.
Police slapped cases on hundreds of youths who participated in the 2010 agitation. Later, the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government announced a general amnesty to them. However, many youths, like Meraj, allege that their harassment hasn’t ended.
“The police harassment has reached to such a level that we are ready to take up arms against NC. They promoted ‘gunda raaj’ here. We seek development of our area which is in shambles as the incumbent representative failed to develop it,” Meraj’s friend Mohammad Shafi said, pointing towards the potholed road in the market.
Shafi said that despite giving up pro-freedom protests and stone-pelting, they were called by police days before first phase of the Assembly polls. “Yasir sahib (PDP candidate) helped us again this time. But police wanted us to be detained to ensure smooth polling in the area. Basically, it’s our local MLA Mohammad Akbar Lone on whose orders we are being harassed and terrorized,” he added.