Engineer Left Separatist Party To Contest, Wins

28 December 2008
The Indian Express

Srinagar: In an election pregnant with hope, this is perhaps the most heartwarming story of all. A former civil engineer from the remote Mawar village of north Kashmir broke with his separatist party on the question of boycott, gave up his job, and contested the elections solely on the strength of his conviction, and the few rupees that impoverished villagers raised for him. And he will now take their goodwill, and their voice, to the Jammu and Kashmir assembly. “This is the victory of the poor villagers of my constituency,” said Abdul Rashid Sheikh, Independent winner from Langate. “I am committed to their cause and this commitment has resulted in my victory.” Once a close confidant of the slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, Sheikh joined Sajjad Lone after the People’s Conference leader was assassinated and his party split between his two sons. He was already a celebrated champion of civil liberties in his area, having raised his voice against alleged Army begaar (forced labour) in the cluster of villages in the frontier region, and widely respected for his integrity and commitment. When Sajjad called for a poll boycott, Sheikh couldn’t agree. He decided to join the fray, taking on Mohammad Sultan Panditpuri of the PDP and Sharif-ud-din Shariq of NC. He had no political or business patronage, but he kept the faith, and his campaign was funded entirely through small donations from Mawar villagers. Today, they danced in the streets.