J&K: Away from native soil, Kashmiri Pandits vote in homecoming hope

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Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir): Displaced from their native soil, their homes, hearths and loved ones, many of whom perished in the face of militancy and cross-border terrorism; migrant Kashmiri Pandits residing in Jammu turned out in numbers outside polling booths on Monday, in the hope, perhaps, of a homecoming in the not-too-distant future.

Amid polling for Phase 4 of the Lok Sabha elections on Monday, migrant Kashmir voters were pictured queuing up outside a special polling booth in Jammu’s Barnai village to cast their votes for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Speaking to ANI, a migrant Pandit, who was among many queuing up to vote during the polling for Srinagar on Monday, said the primary issue that they voted on was the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits on their native soil.
“We all know how the Kashmiri Pandits came to be dislodged from their roots in 1990.

Hence, it is important that there is a conversation around their rehabilitation and being represented in Parliament. We need to make our votes count. Voting is the only way we can push forward with our demands for the development, rehabilitation of the Kashmir Pandits and the restoration of basic educational rights for them,” the migrant voter.

Dr Ramesh Bhat, another Kashmiri Pandit, “The scars that we carry and the pain of being away from our native soil will, perhaps, never heal. However, I am happy how the Election Commission arranged for us to vote today as it enabled us to stay connected to our roots. We are thankful to them. Our only hope is that whoever comes to power takes note of our demands and enables us to exercise our franchise on our home soil next time.”

“Our votes will go a long way towards charting the country’s future. Physically, we may be in Jammu but in spirit, we are with our brothers, sisters and brethren in Kashmir,” he added. The EC has also set up special polling booths for the displaced Pandits across the national capital, which will vote in Phase 6–on May 25.

The special booths have come up at Kashmir Resident Commission, 5 PR Road, New Delhi, Kashmir Kissan Ghar, BR-2 Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, Arwachin International Public School, Pocket F Dilshad Garden, Delhi, and GGSSS Paprawat, Najafgarh.

With neither the BJP nor the Congress putting up candidates in Srinagar, the key combatants in the battle for the prestigious Srinagar seat are Waheed Ur Rehman Para of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi of the National Conference.

Despite being partners in the Opposition alliance–INDIA, the PDP and the National Conference chose to go solo in the Lok Sabha elections in the Union Territory. The erstwhile state has been under central rule since the fall of the PDP-BJP government in June 2018, with the last assembly polls held in 2014. The voting in Jammu and Kashmir is being held in five phases.

In the 2019 elections, the BJP and the National Conference shared the electoral sweepstakes, winning three seats each. The counting of votes for all Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere has been scheduled for June 4.

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