Kashmiri Pandits vote in special booths, hope for end of terrorism and return to homeland

By Anil Bhatt

Jagti Camp (Jammu), May 6 (PTI) Living miles away from their native place for the past three decades, displaced Kashmiri Pandits Monday voted with the hope for an end to terrorism and peaceful return to their homeland.
“We want that South Kashmir should be freed from the twin grave threats (terrorism and radicalization) to the composite culture of Kashmiriyat,” 65-year-old Pyara Lal Pandita, who hailed from Pulwama district of the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, said after casting vote at a special polling station here.
The third and last phase polling for the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency took place in Pulwama and Shopian districts on Monday. Polling was staggered in the constituency due to security reasons.
Kashmiri Pandits, who have been voting in exile for the past three decades in Jammu, Delhi and Udhampur for their native assembly and parliamentary constituencies, say the situation in Kashmir is getting worse due to rampant radicalization and terrorism, weakening the possibility of their return to and rehabilitation in Kashmir Valley.
Arvind Koul, who hails from Shopian, says his community members cannot return to their homeland unless and until there is restoration of “composite culture (Kashmiriyat) and humanity (insaniyat) as existed before the emergence of terrorism in the valley” in 1989-1990.
For 21-year-old Sunita Bhat from Tral of south Kashmir, “Peace and security are first and foremost conditions for settlement of a minority community.”
“The government should consider these before formulating a rehabilitation policy,” she said.
Meanwhile, some Kashmiri Pandits staged demonstrations outside a special polling station here on Monday after they found their names missing from the voter list.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, Congress state president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, former Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge and National Conference candidate Hasnain Masood, BJP’s Sofi Yousuf and Zaffar Ali of the People’s Conference are among the 18 candidates in the fray from the Anantnag seat.
Anantnag district went to polls on 23 April, while voting in Kulgam district took place on 29 April, while Shopian and Pulwama districts voted Monday.
The Election Commission set up 21 special polling stations for Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu, one in Udhampur and four in Delhi to ensure their participation in the democratic process.

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