DDC polls: Kupwara hamlets cast votes with hope of development, statehood restoration
Residents from Kupwara’s fringe villages on Tuesday braved the morning chill and lined up early outside a polling station on Chowkibal-Tanghdar road in Marsari to cast their votes for development and strengthening the leaders fighting for the restoration of Article 370 and J&K’s statehood.
Government High School, Marsari, houses the single polling station for residents of Marsari and Rangwar — the last two villages before the serpentine roads lead to the mountains of Tangdhar.
“We believe in democratic institutions but the government should respect what people want from the Centre. We want respect, jobs and development,” said former sarpanch of Marsari, adding, “Today we are voting for the future of Kashmir. Everything was taken away from us on August 5, 2019. Now, leaders have joined hands for the restoration of Article 370 and statehood. By voting for the joint leadership, we want to make them strong,” he said.
Other villagers echoed that by revoking J&K’s special status, the Centre complicated the situation in the Valley. “Article 370 and statehood are our rights which we should get back,” said villager Arif Ahmad.
The polling was held in Chowkibal, a remote area in Kupwara district, as part of the second phase of the district development council (DDC) elections across J&K.
“We are facing a series of problems here and development has never reached our villages. We have cast votes in the hope that our elected representatives will try to solve these problems,” said the head of Rangwar village, Ghulam Nabi.
Marsari and Rangwar villages have around 900 registered voters and by afternoon, half of them had exercised their franchise.
“We are either working as labourers or porters. For us, life is miserable and whenever there is snowfall we have to live without electricity for weeks. This time our only hope is that our representative will be close to us,” said Yaqub Khan, an elderly villager.
Rangwar is a picturesque village surrounded by forests currently covered in heavy snow. However, villagers say their miseries swell once winter sets in. “Our village receives four to five feet of snow in winter and there is dearth of everything here. Only a few people in the villages are employed in government services or the private sector. So, the youths here are sitting idle,” said Saleema Begum of Rangwar.
Shaheen Ahmad Khan, a student of Class XII who had come to vote from Rangwar along with his family, said that all 13 candidates came to their village to seek support. “We want a good and educated person to get elected so that he/she could at least highlight the issues of the villages. People here are voting for different candidates.”
After coming out of the polling station, Saleem Khan wished that his vote would bring about a change for the youth. “We have a lot of problems here, especially unemployment. I hope that the administration keeps its promise of giving jobs to people.”
In the neighbouring Manzgam, the villagers said they will prefer a candidate who will be honest and work for people. “This time, 15 candidates are in the fray, and people are voting for those who will work for rural development,” said Saif-u-din Khan.
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- The order to lift the ban was issued after chief minister Yogi Adityanath approved a proposal to this effect on Monday, sources said.