Salotri (J&K): Undeterred by the threat of firing from across the border by Pakistani forces, sarpanch Mohammad Azam, along with 310 others, walked to the hypersensitive polling booth along LoC in Poonch district on Tuesday to cast his vote for "ceasefire" and "development".
Azam, among the first few voters to press the button on the EVM at Salotri polling station around 8 am, walked fearlessly along the serpentine LoC foot track from his home two kilometres away among the mountains, under the watchful eyes of Pakistani troops sitting atop observation towers.
"My security and development are very important to me and my people living along LoC in Poonch. My vote is for ceasefire to stay and above all for development," Azam told PTI here.
Areas along the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu region, particularly Poonch, Jammu and Samba, have witnessed heavy firing and mortar shelling by Pakistani troops since October 1 which left 11 persons dead and nearly 100, including 18 security men, injured.
Around 32,000 people have fled their homes leaving 113 hamlets deserted along the IB.
Fear is the most hated word for Azam and the border residents as they want a change in their lives with better security, good governance, employment avenues, corruption-free administration and most of all - development of the state.
"Our people have voted for development of this border belt. We are living like unwanted citizens with no facilities of roads, water supply, etc. Our middle school was set up in 1977 and it has not been ungraded till now to high or higher secondary school," the Sarpanch lamented.
120-year-old Alam Din, carried by his family members by foot, cast his vote at polling booth No 1 at Salotri for "development" of area.
Like him, Chuni Lal of Ajote border belt near LoC, a retired headmaster, also voted for "development".
"Men and women voters are coming out in huge numbers to vote for development and total halt to LoC firing amid rejection of divisive politics," he said.
"Most of the people are voting for the development, apart from generation of more jobs for unemployed youth and corruption-free governance. We want a majority government in the state," Lal said, adding that successive governments have failed to do any good work for Jammu and Kashmir and have only misappropriated central funds. "So we want such a set up in the state which will be accountable to the people."