Javid AhmadKhansahib (Budgam), Nov 17:
Three men in their 50s sat on the shop fronts and watched the cavalcade of vehicles of government forces escorting an officer at Shamsabad village in Khansahib on Saturday.
The three old men gossip about the polls being an exercise that the government was conducting “to show a sense of normalcy” in the Valley.
Among them is Ghulam Hassan, a cloth merchant, who had lifted the shutter of his shop in the morning without giving a think to the shutdown called of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL).
He probably had a reason to keep his shop open as he said there was “no election at all” at Shamsabad.
“There are nine panch wards in this village. In eight wards, none filed nomination papers, while in the only other ward, a candidate was elected unopposed,” said Hassan.
With around 500 households, Shamsabad, an underdeveloped village is situated just 2 km from Khansahib block.
The villagers said people were losing interest in such elections due to corruption at official level, everyday killings in Kashmir, and growing polarisation.
“Everyday people in Kashmir are being killed and no one talks about it. There are various factors that have led to change in social as well as political thinking of people,” Hassan said
Another local resident, who runs a provisional store, said the polarisation over the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir issue and the legal challenge to Article 35-A of the constitution of India was keeping people away from polls.
“People don’t participate in polls because of polarisation and who we should vote when none stood to file nomination for candidature in the village,” he said.
He said even if National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have participated in the polls, it would have made no difference.
“It is NC and PDP who failed people on all fronts, political as well as development,” he said.
NC and PDP, the two main regional parties of the State announced to boycott panchayat polls, asking Government of India (GoI) to clear its stand in the Supreme Court on the Article 35-A and urged it to defend its continuation in the court.
According to Hassan, the corruption in the system from top to bottom had left people rethink about poll participation.
He said panchayat polls were actually aimed at development of villages but informed that the development was getting marred by corruption.
“When such elections were held last time, what development was carried by those who were elected then in our village. Nothing! See our roads,” Hassan said.
He said if the government sanctions Rs 50 lakh for any developmental work for a village, officials and contractors take the major share in nexus with the local representative and the amount does not reach the actual people it was meant for.
In the nearby village Yarikhah, men and women were walking through the ankle deep mud on a road leading to the Government Secondary School to vote.
At noon, all the 11 wards of Yarikhah were witnessing moderate polling and people said once the sarpanch and panchs of their choice would be elected, the village would witness development.
Similar scene was witnessed at Raiyar-Ich village were moderate voting was witnessed in all wards except ward 8 where out of 97 votes, no vote was polled till 1 pm.
An independent candidate, Sarwa Bano said poverty and underdevelopment in the village had made her contest polls for Sarpanch.