by Farzana Nisar
KULGAM: Two DDC constituencies Manzgam and Pombay are all set to go to polls in the second phase on Tuesday. There are 14 candidates in fray including 10 candidates in Pombay and 4 in Manzgam.
Manzgam, located 7 km away from sub-district headquarter Damhal Hanjipora, is a female reserved seat for the scheduled tribes (ST). There are four women in fray. This is for the first time that this major village has seen ST women into some kind of electoral activity.
Of the four candidates in fray, one belongs to Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and the remaining are contesting as independents. What is interesting, all the four are under security as a result of which their families are campaigning for them enthusiastically. The campaigning was taking place without the candidates. Authorities had already restricted the contestants to some safe place.
Eventually, it turned out that authorities had “restricted” all the four to a single room for the 15 days now. They said now their families are campaigning for them but they had no idea about how their families are managing their campaign. Incidentally, a fortnight-long “association” has made them friendly with each other.
“This is the first time that we have been given a reservation and we are really happy about it,” Chowdhary Sobia Paswal, father of Jameela Akhter, a DDC candidate, told a gathering of STs. “This area has a 50% population of ST people and now we can have our own people fighting for our rights and needs.”
Hailing from Tangmarg Aharbal, Jameela Akhter of National Conference has been given a mandate by PAGD. She has a bachelor’s degree in science and has also done her BEd. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Arts through IGNOU. Her father has been an NC supporter for years and believes that loyalty towards his political party prompted him to make her daughter file the nomination. “The party has seen a lot of ups and downs but I never left the party,” said Sobia Paswal. “When the party asked me to find an educated female candidate from my area. I couldn’t find one and then my own daughter was my only choice.”
Jameela also feels that education played a major role in her decision to contest the elections. “I can speak well for my people and take the issues to higher authorities. After the abrogation of Article 370, people of Kashmir have suffered a lot and PAGD wants to serve them in the best way possible,” Jameela said. Jameela comes from a family of working people. One of her brother is a lecturer, another one serves the animal husbandry department and the third one is a doctor based in Chandigarh.
The other candidate is Rubeena Akhter who is contesting independently with Apple as her electoral symbol. “Abi nahi to kabi nahi (It’s now or never),” she said she believes in it.
Residing in Avil Gujjar Basti Manzgam, Rubeena is a housewife and has done her schooling till twelfth class. Eradication of poverty, Rubeena said, is her main plank for the election. “I am a poor woman and well acquainted with the problems that come along with the poverty,” Rubina told this reporter. “Our tribe has been neglected for long, and now its time to speak up for ourselves.”
Another independent candidate is from Halan Manzgam, Shaziya Akhter with the table as her symbol. She has dropped out after passing her matriculation. Shazia said she has always been fascinated by politics, and when Manzgam constituency was given a ST reservation she couldn’t resist taking part in DDC elections.
“More than passion, it was my helplessness that made me file the nomination. I have cried many times on seeing pregnant ladies being carried on shoulders to hospitals. I always wanted someone to raise these issues but nobody cared for us,” Shaziya said. “At the time of votes, the politicians used to come and make big promises but after they used to win, they hardly remembered us.”
Shaziya’s husband is a labourer and has been a great support to her. “He did a door to door campaigning for me and I am hopeful of non-ST support too.”
The same Bijli, Paani, Sadak, is also the proclamation of independent candidate Shaheena Akhter who is famed as the wife of a local Village Level worker (VLW). With tractor as her election symbol, Shaheena said that her husband was initially apprehensive at her decision of entering district level politics. “He didn’t support me earlier but now when he realized that this is for our good, he is supportive,” she said. She said that ST people have been always looked down upon and it has impacted their position in politics too. “We need hospitals, road connectivity, power supply, and more than that we need respect. Political parties give mandate to influential people, so I decided to contest independently.”
According to locals, Jameela of PAGD is favourite to win the election, keeping in view the dominance of NC and PDP in the area. “Jameela is the only well-educated and well-speaking female candidate. PDP and NC has been holding sway in the past elections, so she is surely going to get a lot of votes from the supporters of both parties,” said a local, Aarif Ahmad.
Unlike Manzgam, the PAGD is fighting each other in Pombay where 10 male candidates are in the fray. While PAGD has fielded PDP’s Mohammad Amin Dar, CPI (M), a PAGD constituent has fielded Mohammad Afzal Paray. BJP has given the mandate to Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, a KB Pora resident.