Muslims Vote For Non-Muslims In Civic Polls
30 January 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: For the people living across the Jawahar Tunnel, 60-year-old Chuni Devi of Sirnoo, Pulwama town, may be one of the persecuted flock of the endangered species in Kashmir. After her husband Sham Lal's natural death last year, she must be living at the sweet will of the militants. She, however, has nothing in hand to barter her existence. Last week, Chuni Devi filed her nomination papers on the National Conference (NC) ticket from Ward No: 6 for Pulwama Municipal Committee. Her only association with the party was her husband's acquaintance or friendship with the senior NC leader Abdur Rahim Rather. Sham Lal and Rather were both residents of Badipora, Chadoura, in Budgam district. As Rather shot into the political prominence, his classmate Sham Lal became a lecturer in the state education department. When a former Minister and another NC leader Bashir Ahmed Nengroo's wife approached Chuni Devi on January 25, it took her just minutes to accept the party's offer. Assuring the poor lady complete support of the Muslim majority community, Nengroo's wife fielded her as the NC's candidate against a prospective PDP nominee. Chuni Devi has no doubts about her victory. The Kashmiri resident Pandit female, who has long back given up her job as a lady constable on the advice of her late husband, is not the only non- Muslim candidate in the current civic body elections, being held after a pause of 27 years. Dozens of others have jumped into the fray even in militant-infested localities like Pulwama. In the phase- I of the democratic process, two Hindu Brahmin candidates have been returned in the border township of Uri in Baramulla district on Saturday. In Ward No:1 of Uri, Bharat Kumar of Congress has defeated NC's Haji Abdul Lateef with the overwhelming support of the Muslim majority. Hindu vote in that ward is estimated to be less than 10%. In Ward No:2, with the same following, Ashok Kumar of Congress has scored a victory over an Independent candidate Balbir Kumar. None of the Muslims came forward to counter Bharat Kumar. Five wards of the 16-member Baramulla Municipal Council have already been captured by candidates of the Sikh community who contested elections with the mandate of different political parties. Yet another, namely Harminder Kaur of PDP, is all set to trounce her Congress rival, Raja W-o Khizar Mohammad, in the January 31 repoll being held in Ward No:18. Harminder was already a Muslim favourite. The Muslims have additionally taken exception to the fact that an 'outsider' had been fielded by Congress. Raja is actually from Rangwar locality. As none of the Muslim aspirants emerged to counter the Independent Sikh candidate, Karan Singh, he was elected unopposed in Ward No: 13 of Baramulla. Public Prosecutor Karnail Singh defeated NC's Sodhi Jasbir Singh in Ward No: 14 with the enthusiastic support of the Muslim community. This triumphant PDP nominee has emerged as the most potential candidate for the chairmanship of the Baramulla Municipal Council. It was again overwhelming support of the 90 percent Muslim electorate that helped a retired Section Officer of Revenue Department, Himmat Singh, achieve a sweeping victory over the Congress candidate Mohammad Hussain in Ward No: 19 of Baramulla. Singh tried his luck as an Independent candidate, though he is now being wooed by the PDP. The Muslim majority community had motivated an influential contender, Shafeeq-ur-rehman, to withdraw in favour of Himmat Singh. In Ward No: 15 of Baramulla, Sikh woman Jasbir Kaur trounced her Muslim rival, Parveen Akhtar. Jasbir contested as Congress candidate and Parveen had NC's ticket but party affiliations were no good or bad qualification in yesterday's elections. Yet another Sikh female, Raminder Kaur of PDP, defeated Muslim rival, Gul Ruby of Congress, with a tidy margin in the Muslim- dominated Ward No: 21 of Baramulla town on Saturday.