Kudara (Bandipora): A bumpy road, uphill, leads to a Gujjar tribal village, Kudara, 17 kilometres from district headquarters Bandipora. The only way to enter the village is through the gates of an army camp, the gates established one stop early, near Chuntimullah village. After identity check and noting down of credentials, armed personnel allow one to proceed towards Kudara village. Past the army gates, the phone network fades away.
On Saturday morning, as a bright sun rose from behind snow-capped mountains, voters clad in pherans, both men and women, some of the women wrapped in chadors, had already lined up in queues to cast their vote.
The highest number of votes at a polling station was cast here – 816 – in panchayat elections held on Saturday in this area. The other polling booths, like at Gund Kaiser and Rampora, wore a comparatively deserted look.
The reason for the Gujjars to vote is that they feel neglected and deprived of basic amenities like healthcare, water, roads and electricity. There is also the growing desire to have mobile phone connectivity.
“We are like destitutes,” said Noorani Poswal, an elderly man. “The reason we have voted is so that the government may have a look at us and see for themselves how miserable we are. We don’t have electricity, the road is a nightmare, and government healthcare is an alien concept here.”
Locals said that the administration made tall claims of announcing electricity to this village, but despite the passing of two years since transmission lines were laid, no one has seen electricity.
“It is a joke being played with us. Our eyes have grown tired but no one bothers to look at us,” said Abdul Khan Gujjar. “The village has no health centre and the sick are to be taken by foot to Bandipora, kilometres away, for treatment.”
A woman voter complained, “Even the foods and supplies department doesn’t reach us, which deprives us of flour and rice. We are confined to the agricultural produce here.”
Habibullah, with henna-dyed hair, lamented, “We have been voting for 40 years but the government never pays attention to our needs. They come asking for votes and then vanish away. A 36-feet PMGSY road was to be constructed but the half-hearted construction has left it useless. The sick have to be taken all the way to Bandipora for treatment as the village does not have even a dispensary. The world is moving ahead every day but we are stuck in time. We don’t even have mobile connectivity in this computer age.”
The majority of the jobless youth here are hoping that tourism status may be given to the trekking destination, Sheera-Sar. “Kudara being a base for the trek, much of the tourism inflow will help in securing the future of the youth of the village,” said Amjad Gujjar.
Kudara village comes under Aloosa block in Bandipora, which went to panchayat polls on Saturday. It has in total 107 Panch wards, for which 18 candidates were in the fray for 9 seats, while 63 candidates have been elected unopposed and the rest are vacant. Out of 15 Sarpanch segments, 10 Sarpanchs were elected unopposed, while 10 Sarpanch candidates are in fray for 4 seats.
In Gund Kaiser, 144 votes were polled out of 687; at GBPS Rampora, 34 votes out of 484; at MS Gundipora, 80 votes out of 944; at GHS Kudara, 816 out of 1,172; at MS TA Shah, 264 votes out of 507. A total of 1,338 votes were polled out of 3,794 till the time of closing, taking the polling percentage to 35.26 overall.