Ex-militants In Jammu Kashmir Say Ballot Is The Way

17 December 2008

Jammu: As the state of Jammu and Kashmir comes close to the final round of polls, many former terrorists are queuing up to vote, many of whom have voted for the first time. 'I have never voted before, but this time I shall for sure,' said a former Hizbul Muzahideen commander, Farooq Ahmad who had surrendered in 2005. Having been a militant for 15 years, Ahmad is happy to be able to exercise franchise and now a first time voter. He had once been active in terrorists' plans to disrupt elections, but now he says it's not guns but the ballot which is the answer to Kashmir's problems. 'Election is the only solution. Wielding the gun and straying bullets for the last 15 years yielded nothing,' Ahmad said. Like Ahmad, Mohammad Bashir too had laid down his arms. But starting afresh has been difficult. The job and two lakh rupees promised to these former militants at the time of surrender is yet to materialise. And then there is the threat from their former comrades. 'Its a very dangerous life out there, and I happily left it,' said Bashir. Despite the difficulties, these men say they will vote, hoping for better times ahead. 'I hope elections bring good times, progress and peace,' added Bashir. Over 80 per cent of militants in this region have surrendered. After being disillusioned by the power of the gun, they are eager to explore the possibilities and the power of the ballot, hoping for the change they have waited for.