by Tahir Bhat
SRINAGAR: The Kashmiri Pandit who defeated a Muslim candidate in south Kashmir without even campaigning said all the Kashmir supported him to become the Sarpanch. Identified as 66-year old Chaman Lal, he plans to visit the area now – as he has been doing frequently, even though he believes “Jammu is not far away from Kashmir, any more”.
The news about Chaman’s election was broken by former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti. She wrote on Twitter: “PDPs Chaman Lal, a Kashmiri pandit who was away from Valley since the last 30 years was elected as a sarpanch today. This is true Kashmiriyat. Hope this is an eye-opener for rest of India where laws like CAA & anti-conversion bills are brought to punish Muslims.”
PDPs Chaman Lal, a Kashmiri pandit who was away from Valley since the last 30 years was elected as a sarpanch today. This is true Kashmiriyat. Hope this is an eye opener for rest of India where laws like CAA & anti conversion bills are brought to punish muslims. pic.twitter.com/rX4GzOBKbc
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) December 19, 2020
Chaman, however, told Kashmir Life that he is not affiliated formally with the PDP. “I have sympathies for them and they support me a lot,” Chaman said. “But the fact is that I had contested independently and all the parties supported – the NC supported, the PDP supported, probably Jamat-e-Islami supported and perhaps CVommunists also supported.”
Chaman, however, was thankful for PDP for running his campaign because he could not personally visit and campaign. He said he would talk to his voters on phone on an almost daily basis. “My wife died a month back and people – mostly from Kashmir, were coming to condole the death,” he said. “I have been visiting my home quite often, i visited in 2005, 2012, 2015 and I will be going now. This also is a fact that Jammu is not far away from Kashmir now.”
Chaman is a retired employee of the agriculture department. He has married his son and daughter and wanted to do something in politics. Last time, he said, he had submitted his form fro the position of Sarpanch. “I do not know what were the reasons, perhaps it got delayed and my nomination was not accepted,” Chaman said. “The Panchayat was constituted in which almost seven Panchs were from our baradari (Kashmiri Pandits). Even the Sarpanch was also elected.” He members him as Maharaj Krishan Raina, who was supposed by the BJP but somehow he resigned. This is where the opening for Chaman was visible.
There were only two candidates in the fray for the position – Chaman Lal and Bashir Ahmad Malla. While Chaman polled 231 votes, Malla polled 160. Malla was also independent but might have support from some political party.