Border Villages Enjoy Peaceful Voting Without Fear Of Cross-Border Shelling

Pic: Rahi Kapoor/Excelsior

NOWSHERA, May 25: Just metres from the Line of Control (LoC), the polling stations set up for Lok Sabha elections at Sehar and Makri, the last Indian villages in this sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, came to life with enthusiastic voters making a beeline to exercise their franchise without the fear of cross-border shelling.

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Rajouri along with Poonch south of Pir Panjal is part of Anantnag parliamentary constituency where polling is underway in the sixth phase to seal the fate of 20 candidates including PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. This is the last of the five constituencies in J&K as polling was held in four seats earlier.
Mehbooba faces a major challenge from former minister of National Conference and influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf and Apni party’s Zafar Iqbal Khan Manhas who is backed by BJP. Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) leader Mohamad Saleem Parray and 10 independents are also trying their luck from the constituency.
“Voting is taking place in a peaceful atmosphere without the fear of the cross-border shelling this time. We have seen worst of the times due to the shelling from Pakistan and our only prayer is continuation of the peaceful atmosphere on the borders,” Ved Prakash, a resident of Makri village, which falls near the border fence, said after casting his vote.
A renewed ceasefire between India and Pakistan came into effect on February 25, 2021, providing much needed relief to the border residents.
Authorities have set up 19 border polling stations along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri and Poonch and have also worked out a contingency plan to deal with cross-border shelling.
“We are seeing massive development in our areas which were worst hit by cross-border shelling. The government has also provided us underground bunkers for our safety in case of shelling from Pakistan side,” Prakash said.
Nowshera assembly segment has recorded 47.31 percent polling till 1 pm.
Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency, having a total of 18.36 eligible voters, recorded 35.22 percent voting till 1 pm. The constituency is spread across 18 segments in Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian in south Kashmir and Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region.
Prakash said the fear of Pakistani shelling had faded a long ago and “today we are voting for a government which will address our pending issues like road connectivity and better facilities for our school going children”.
“We want a government which will ensure that we live our lives peacefully, without the fear of Pakistani shelling and continue the developmental activities for the upliftment of the border residents,” he said.
Gorakh Nath, a government teacher who was assigned the job of the Booth Level Officer, said moderate to brisk polling was recorded since this morning and the credit for it goes to the peaceful atmosphere.
“This is one of the unique polling stations, having the facility of underground bunkers as well. People have started queuing up to exercise their vote,” he said.
Sunil Choudhary said the village faces water scarcity and wanted the government to address the problem.
Choudhary, a former sarpanch, said the border villages have distinct challenges of their own and needs proper government attention.
“You cannot compare our problems with people in other parts of the country. We are boldly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our jawans guarding the borders of the country which is the beauty of our areas,” he said.
Neesha, a student and the first-time voter, expressed happiness for exercising her democratic right and said “I voted for the overall development of my country and strong Government.”
“Earlier, the frequent cross-border shelling have made our lives a living hell. We were unable to concentrate on our studies but now after the ceasefire, we are studying like any other student,” she said.
Dewan Chand said the students had to traverse through the jungle trek to continue their studies after passing class 10.
“We want a higher secondary school and a proper road connectivity so that our children do not face any problem in continuing their studies,” he said. (Agencies)