Jammu: At the government school at Dhoke Khalsa near Line of Control (LoC), in Jammu division’s Akhnoor sector, men and women were lined up in long queues to vote for the first ever District Development Council (DDC) elections, the first major political exercise taking place after the abrogation of Article 370. However, COVID-19 protocols were hardly being followed with security men incessantly asking villagers, young and old, to maintain distance.
Voting for 43 constituencies took place in the second phase of the District Development Council (DDC) polls on Tuesday across Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu witnessed brisk voting with recorded percentage of 54.10 till 1 p.m.
Keeping in line with the schedule, voting started at 7a.m amid cold weather with fewer voters and picked up the pace at 9 a.m, till about 2 p.m. The road leading up to Dhoke Khalsa is wide and in good shape but as one enters the village, the roads are battered and narrow.
Geeta Devi, 35, who exhibited fatigue displayed equally by other voters of her age, said the village is riddled with several problems, including poor water supply, power outage, bad condition of roads and her vote would be for betterment. "There are days when we don’t have water for a week and all our work gets stalled."
Purshotam Lal, who runs a grocery store, said that he was unaffected by national politics run on religious lines and would vote for whoever works for the betterment for his village.
"Sanu national politics ke karna aae. (What have I to do with the national politics). The one who will work for my village and its betterment, my vote is for him," he said.
With majority of Hindu population, the village is also home to 25 Bakarwal families who have installed their tents and could be seen lining up to cast their votes.
Showkat Ali, 34, who appeared excited, said that he is voting for the new government, pointing to the newly formed People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), saying that problems have aggravated for their community.
"In the last one year, we have not been allowed to enter our own forests. The areas are barricaded, security men are deployed and we are asked to leave. They don’t even allow us to graze our cattle," said Ali.
Ali's resentment was echoed by Farooq Ahmed, 50, who spends his summers in Jammu and walks uphill to Kashmir in the winters. Recently, many such cases of "forced eviction" of Gujjar and Bakarwals, a nomadic tribe, have been reported.
"We have been robbed of our rights. We have nothing with us. So, it has become more to important for us to vote and give a chance to a new government," he added.
In Chenab valley, Ramban recorded the highest turnout of 57.31% till 1 p.m followed by Doda at 55.82% and Kishtwar 50.47%.