BUDGAM: At a time when militants as well as local regional political parties have called for boycott of panchayat elections, a former militant is standing as a Sarpanch candidate in a far-off village in Sukhnag block in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Hailing from Rakhi-Wachoo, Ghulam Mohiuddin Wani, who has grown old now, was an active militant during the 1990s. He surrendered before the army a few years after joining militant ranks.
On Tuesday, brisk voting was witnessed at the 7 polling booths set up in a government middle school along the roadside in Sukhnag block. The scene was festive with scores of people and dozens of vehicles standing on the school ground. The polling station had no fencing, so every passer-by could come and have a look.
Among the scores of voters and government forces, an old man with a long white beard was standing aloof. He was looking attentively at every person approaching the polling booth.
The person was Ghulam Mohiuddin Wani himself. Speaking without any fear, he explained to Kashmir Reader why he stood in the panchayat elections.
“Despite threats from militants and boycott calls from local parties, my motive for fighting panchayat elections is nothing else than to strengthen democracy in Kashmir. I don’t fear the militants. I believe in elections and fair democracy,” he said.
He termed the boycott call from local parties as “mere drama”. The NC and PDP have always betrayed the Kashmiri nation, he said.
He cited an example: “Recently, when the central government sanctioned funds for affected people of Kashmir, the then Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, didn’t disburse those funds among the needy. Instead, she shared them with her own people.”
He said that Omar Abdullah did similar things when his party was ruling the state.
Wani said that the motive of these parties is not to unite people but to divide them, and to create “hate” against India.
Justifying his statement, Wani said, “The recent example is the 2014 assembly elections, when PDP grabbed votes from common people to keep the BJP away. But after getting votes from them, it formed a coalition government with the same party. If this is sincerity, then I don’t subscribe to it.”
He said, “I don’t believe in election boycott. I prefer to plunge into elections with the aim to represent my own people and work for their development.”
In the previous panchayat elections, Wani said, his son had contested for a Panch seat and won. “But as posters and audio clips of militants’ threats had gone viral, I preferred to replace him,” he said.
“Kyuke koi maa baap nahi chahta ke us ki aulad ko maara jaye (because no parent wants their child to be killed)”, he added.
He lambasted the PDP and NC as “Gaddaar (traitors)”.
Wani said that previous state government had promised to rehabilitate militants who had either surrendered or returned from across the border, but the promise was never fulfilled. “The militants who surrendered are living a life of penury and distress even in 2018,” he said.