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Between father and son, hope and despair

Father and son, both sand diggers, want azadi but took part in the elections. They cling on to hope. Peerzada Ashiq reports.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2008 22:19 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

A day after polling, the Mir family is back on the banks of river Jhelum to make the ends meet through their traditional means: digging sand from the river. Braving chilling weather, Ghulam Qadir Mir and his 22-year-son Mushtaq Ahmad Mir arrive at the banks at 7 am and work till 2:30 pm.

Nothing has changed for the Mir family in the last 60 years. Ghulam Qadir's father left farming long ago to eke out a living from digging sand. Since then they have been earning hand to mouth, a victim of the state's poor governance that has been worsened by violence since 1989.

Though both Mir and his son Ahmad Mir voted on Monday at a Wangipora Bala polling booth in Sumbal town, they were completely divided over the issue they voted for. If the father voted for development of the area, the son for security and safety.

"I voted because our village lack basic amenities. Now I can seek an appointment with the MLA I voted for in case there is any problem in our village," said Mir, busy piling sand on a carrier in his wooden boat.

The father-son duo are able to earn just Rs 400 a day, of which Rs 500 goes as tax every month.

It is not money what Mushtaq Mir is worried about. His top most concern is safety and security. "After the government was form in 2002, the Special Task Force personnel stopped harassing us unlike in the past," he said, assembling the stock he had dug out till afternoon. "Ikhwan (an counter-insurgency group) was disbanded. They had made our lives miserable."

The Sonawari constituency – in an area once dominated by the Hizbul Mujahideen and later by the counter-insurgency group Ikhwan --- witnessed a record polling of 46 per cent yesterday.

What attracted Mushtaq Mir to vote this time was the change the 2002 polls brought in the state. "Now we easily walk on road even after sundown. Security forces no more conduct crackdown (search operation) frequently," said Mushtaq Mir, who also participated in processions like Iddgah assembly organised by separatists in the last summer.

"I participated because I want azadi (freedom) for Kashmir. Once we get it we will be able to grow because each individual will start contributing."

All he seeks now is a safe future for his children.

"I don't want my children to do what I am doing," he said. "I had the strength to face it but I wish God be kind on the coming generation."

First Published: Nov 18, 2008 22:17 IST