Brought up in the violent times of Kashmir, where politics was defined by separatist poll boycotts for a long time, several Kashmiris on Thursday decided to overcome the inhibition and cast their votes in the parliamentary polls for the first time, but in New Delhi.
"I along with my wife went to cast our votes for an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate. My two kids love to have their fingers marked with the indelible mark, so they accompanies us," 33-year-old Shahnaz Qayoom, a resident of volatile and separatist bastion of Srinagar's Lal Bazaar area, told the Hindustan Times over phone from Delhi.
He and his wife cast their vote from Delhi's Chhattarpur area.
Back home, Qayoom has never voted. He has always followed separatists' poll boycott call. "Faith of people in voting died in 1987 in Kashmir, when it was massively rigged and aspirations of voters abused. No one think voice of a voter matters in Kashmir."
Qayoom, an IT professional with Iyogi Technical Services Private Ltd, claims, he casting a ballot is no "treason" or "betrayal" in Delhi.
"Kashmir remains a political problem. The meaning and politics of casting a vote goes beyond the ballot box. I may still prefer to stay away from polls in Srinagar," said Qayoom adding, "I also believe that the party I vote, in Delhi, does justice with Kashmir if it comes to power".
Qayoom has come out to vote because the flat he owns does not get drinking water properly, faces hidden charges in electricity bills and braves poor Delhi infrastructure, he said.
"The pressing thing that has me out for voting is corruption. We are neck deep in it and a common man cannot breathe," said Qayoom.
Qayoom is not alone. Several Kashmiris, mostly businessmen and professionals, living in Lajpat Nagar, Okhla, Mehrauli etc cast their ballots.
"I practice law in a reputed law firm here. I don't think I can return to Kashmir permanently any time soon. Till then, why not cast my vote to make Delhi a better place. Also I want to break the myth that Kashmiris only believe in guns and not vote as a tool to bring a change," said 35-year-old Sajad Ahmad, a lawyer in Mehrauli, also a resident of Srinagar, told the HT over phone. It is first time that Ahmad is casting vote for the parliamentary polls.
Hundreds of students, businessmen and professionals from Kashmir are staying in Delhi for years now. Their number increased after militancy broke in the Kashmir Valley in 1989. Many of them have taken up jobs and shops in the national capital to almost stay there permanently.