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Jammu & Kashmir
No separatist rumblings in Gurez
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Rain, snow failed to dampen the spirits of followers of the NC and the Congress in Gurez on Thursday.
Rain, snow failed to dampen the spirits of followers of the NC and the Congress in Gurez on Thursday. — Photo by the writer

Gurez (Bandipore), November 13
Amid freezing conditions with incessant snow and rains since this morning, the election fever has been at its peak with the rallies of contesting candidates going on across the valley.

Archrivals, the Congress and the National Conference, though, had to suspend their main rallies as bigwigs of both parties Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saif-ud-din Soz of the Congress and Farooq Abdullah of the NC could not attend due to the heavy downpour and bad weather conditions, the contesting candidates of these parties held separate rallies to woo the voters.

This happened despite the 86-km-long road to Bandipore in the Kashmir valley passing through 11,672 ft high Razdhan peak being closed to traffic due to heavy snow.

And the continued downpour had little effect on the spirit of the two traditional rivals the Congress and National Conference at Dawar, the heart of this area.

Unlike the Kashmir valley where the voter is caught between the electoral process and the boycott campaign by the separatists, the scene is different in this area where the issues are different giving tough time for the contestants to score points over the other.

Gurez area, 85 kms from Bandipore, remains cut off by road surface from the rest of the country for six months of winter due to heavy accumulation of snow on the mountains through which the road to this remote border area passes.

The constituency third in the newly created Bandipore district goes to the polls in the first phase on November 17. It has 15,308 voters for which 25 polling stations have been set up on the stretch of the valley spread over 140 kms in length and less than a km in breadth from Razdhan Pass to Chakwali the remotest area.

Six candidates in the fray are Faqir Mohammad Khan of the Congress and Nazir Ahmad Khan of the National Conference, Nazir Ahmad Bhat of the PDP, Riyaz Ahmad Wani of the BSP, Mohammad Iqbal Lone of the All India Forward Bloc and Abdul Aziz Wani of the Democratic Party Nationalist.

Faqir Mohammad Khan, Congress candidate, was first elected from the area as an Independent in 1996, while Nazir Ahmad Khan of the NC was elected in 2002.

There are common issues before the traditional rivals and other contestants in this constituency ahead of the polling. These include road connectivity by way of a tunnel between Bandipore and Gurez valley, developing the area as a tourist place, setting up of hydel power projects and employment of the youth in armed forces.

“This is not the proper time for elections,” said a resident, Habibullah as he was caught in the election rallies at Dawar here amid downpour and freezing conditions.

The weather conditions has further made the process difficult for the officials responsible for the sending of polling staff and material to far off places, one polling stations at least 70 kms in the high mountains now covered under snow.

There is also a unique problem, a “polling station without the voters at Jawdara,” said Gurez SDM Mohammad Rafi. Over 400 population including 224 voters of Jawdara village have shifted to Kangan in Ganderbal for lack of connectivity and other facilities. The polling staff and material has to be brought to the place, unless an amendment is made to this effect.

Though the population of over 30,000 with 15,308 voters has a literacy percentage of 60, the uneducated youth are unable to get a job, for which the contestants are demanding in poll rallies. The educated youth get government jobs because of the ST status to the area.

There are also three kinds of people living in the area.

1. Those below poverty line, who do not afford to move out of the area.

2. Those shifting to warmer environments of Kashmir for winter months.

3. Those having shifted permanently to the other places after getting jobs on the basis of ST status.



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