M A I N   N E W S

Victory of Aasha, hope for harmony
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Faith in destiny

An estimated two lakh Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley after outbreak of militancy in late 1980s. Wussan village, on the way to tourist spot Gulmarg, which had 10 Kashmiri Pandit families before militancy erupted, has only five left now but Aasha, who came from Doda in the Jammu region after marrying Radha Krishan in 1984, says she never felt like an outsider.

Srinagar, May 10
In what was a closely contested election, a 52-year-old Kashmiri Pandit housewife Aasha Ji Bhat defeated her closest rival, a Muslim woman Sarwah Begum, with a margin of 11 votes in the seventh phase of panchayat elections held on Sunday. She became the first non-Muslim to be elected as a sarpanch.

Aasha, the first Kashmiri Pandit woman to win the panchayat elections to become the sarpanch of Muslim-dominated Wussan village in the Kunzar block of Baramulla district, defeated her lone rival Sarwah Begum by a margin of 11 votes. During the onset of turmoil in the Kashmir valley two decades ago, Aasha and her family, along with three other Kashmiri Pandit families in the village, decided against migration and stayed put in the village.

“We saw the worst days of turmoil in the Valley, but decided against migration and stood shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brethren and now they showed their faith in me by electing me,” she told The Tribune.

She is all praise for the Muslim nambardar of the village Abdul Hamid Wani who encouraged her to contest the elections. “He supported me and encouraged me to contest the elections. He bestowed his faith in me so that I can do some development work for my village,” she said. On his part, Wani says while there was no deliberate intention of making a statement through Aasha’s election, it should remind people that “humanity is still the best virtue.”

Aasha, who lives in the village with her husband Radha Krishan and two sons, said that her victory would send a positive signal to the Kashmiri Pandits who had migrated from the Valley.

“It is a message to the Kashmiri Pandit families living in exile that camaraderie still prevails in Kashmir and that they should return to their roots as things have turned normal here,” she said.

Soon after she was declared the winner, Muslims garlanded her and took her to her house in a big procession, shouting slogans in her praise.

“We voted for her as we knew that she is an energetic lady and would work for the development of our village. We never considered that she was a non-Muslim and we should not vote for her. Our aim was to elect a representative who could help us to focus on development in our village where we face problems like damaged roads, scarcity of potable water and electricity,” said Khursheed Ahmed, a resident of the village.

The villagers in the block said that the four Pandit families who did not migrate from the Kashmir valley had stood with the majority community during the hour of need and now it was their duty to do something in return for them.

Aisha’s elder son Suresh Kumar is a police constable and her younger son helps his father at his grocery shop in the village.





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