Hajin/Sumbal: Deserted roads in north Kashmir’s Hajin, where people stayed indoors to boycott the parliamentary elections on Thursday, were just five kilometers from Sumbal where voters thronged polling stations all day to cast their vote.
A day before voting, posters had come up in Hajin, issued by militants, asking people to boycott the elections. Till 1pm, only three votes had been cast here.
Some locals said that people would have come out to cast their vote, but the threats scared them. Others argued that the poll boycott may hinder development as elected candidates would ignore their area.
Local resident Attaullah Baha explained why there was brisk voting in some parts and total boycott in others. “Those casting their vote want to protect the state’s identity and to oust the BJP government. The people who stayed away heeded to the boycott call of the Hurriyat,” he said.
Security across the region was tight on Thursday. The situation in both Hajin and Sumbal was peaceful, despite the militants’ threats. In Sumbal, more than 41 percent of votes had been cast till 1pm. The first vote was cast at about 7am.
Sumbal is the stronghold of National Conference (NC) candidate Akbar Lone. His supporters claim that Lone and his party will safeguard Articles 35A and 370 if they win seats in Parliament.
“Today’s election is not about development and unemployment issues. It is about safeguarding the state’s unique identity from assault by the Modi-led BJP,” said NC supporter Ghulam Mohiuddin Sheikh.
Contributing to the buzz in Sumbal was the belief among voters that the election was genuinely open and the result no foregone conclusion.
“The candidate who claims victory will have to live up to the expectations of people,” said Sumbal resident Mohammad Jabbar. “We want to see peace in Kashmir. Our children have only seen the conflict. We have to come out of it. We have to give a befitting reply to communal forces and protect our identity.”
It seems that in this election, ordinary people, at least in Sumbal, have sent a strong message to their politicians that protecting the state’s identity is more important than sectional interests.