Record 102 Candidates To Fight In 10 J&K Constituencies

13 November 2008
The Hindu

Bandipora: Defying the separatists call for poll boycott, a record number of 102 candidates are trying their luck from 10 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir, where the first of the seven-phase assembly elections will be held on November 17. But two of the 19 candidates fighting from Bandipora in north Kashmir have different reasons to jump into the fray, one seeking revenge and another seeking release from jail. With no political background, Gousia Bashir (24) is fighting as an Independent. She has not joined any political party but has floated her own outfit called 'Greeb Nawaz (Pro-Poor) Party'. 'I have been exploited,' she said but refused to name the persons who 'exploited' her. 'I have gone through a critical phase and know what the poor are going through,' she said in a choked voice in presence of her mother. Asked what promoted her to contest, she said she did not get any help when she approached people. 'I am determined to fight and fight it out for the poor,' she said. Her mother has claimed many politicians have asked Gousia not to contest. Gousia said her party is preparing a list of people 'involved in exploitation of innocent girls. 'Once the list is complete, it will be handed over to Governor N N Vohra. If he does not take any action, we will expose them,' she said. Mohammad Iqbal Jan is her contrast. An inmate of Delhi's Tihar Jail, Jan has defied the election boycott call and filed nomination as a candidate of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party. Iqbal (26), a resident of Sunarwani village here, is languishing in jail for the past over two years on the charge of carrying hawala money, a charge strongly denied by him. A brother of six sisters, Jan is contesting the polls to 'seek justice'. He has been implicated in a false case and has been in jail since November 16, 2006, his family said. Sister Salma said her brother would never have participated in the elections had he been assured of release. Party chief Bhim Singh is also pleading Iqbal's case. Jan's sisters are campaigning for their brother, going from door to door in villages of the constituency. 'We prefer to go door to door in villages for canvassing,' Salma said. Iqbal owned the Jan Gas Agency here. He along with his partner Mushtaq Ahmad Kaloo of Sopore town left for Delhi on November 14, 2006 to make some payments, the family said. Iqbal and Kaloo were arrested on November 16 and later jailed. 'The police have no evidence against me and others. Two of the witnesses who were civilians have turned hostile. They denied the police story, the court is still not ready to release us on bail. We requested the court for a speedy trail but this has not been accepted,' said Iqbal in a letter published in local media here. Iqbal hit the headlines in July when he wrote a letter to President Pratibha Patil asking her to allow him to commit suicide. 'I want to die. Kindly give me permission for suicide. This is my request to the President of India. Your government has failed to deliver justice to innocent Muslims,' Iqbal said in his letter.