J&K polls: Kashmiri Pandits vote for 'dignified' return

Holding a bamboo stick to support himself in a beeline of voters miles away from hishome in Srinagar city's Habba Kadal, 72-year- old Lombodar Nath, a Kashmiri Pandit, was among the early ones who braved the morning chill to reach a polling booth.

Jagti migrant Camp: Holding a bamboo stick to support himself in a beeline of voters miles away from hishome in Srinagar city's Habba Kadal, 72-year- old Lombodar Nath, a Kashmiri Pandit, was among the early ones who braved the morning chill to reach a polling booth.

Nath, who left his home 25 years ago in December 1989 to save his family from terrorists, said his last wish is to die on the banks of river Jehlum, where he spent a major part of his life.

"I voted in 1996, 2002 and 2008 Assembly polls too. It was a vote against terror and restoration of peace in Kashmir. Vote is my democratic right and this time my vote is for dignified and honourable return and rehabilitation in Kashmir Valley," Nath said after pressing the EVM at a polling station at Jagti Migrant camp for Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu district .

"We have high hopes in these polls and have voted for change. We hope?the new government, which will come to power in the state, along with?the central government will fulfil the wish of Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley," he said.

Like him, another elderly woman, Somawati, who voted in Muthi in Batmaloo Assembly seat, said, "We are ready to return to the Valley provided government ensures security and dignity. It is a vote for returning (to the Valley)."

However, the youngsters said they aspire for employment, education and development of Jammu and Kashmir, apart from returning to the Valley.

"My vote is against the gun but we also want employment and development. Return to Kashmir and rehabilitation of community can be only possible when there are avenues for young people for employment, better education and development not uncertainty and terror," Neetu Dhar, a second year BSc student who voted at Udhyawalla polling station, said.

"The first and foremost task is to create a conducive atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley for the return of the community and to take confidence buildings measures. That is what we have conveyed to the government through the voting," another student and first time voter Ritika Bhat said.

Unlike in the past elections when the response was not much, Kashmiri Pandit voters, including women and first timers, were seen standing in long queues waiting for their turn to cast their votes in the fourth phase of the Assembly election at polling stations in Jagti, Muthi, Udhaywala, Roopnagar among others

At Jagti, Muthi and Udhaywala polling stations, there was over 35-40 per cent of voting till this afternoon.

There are over 25000 Kashmiri Pandit voters registered for the polling in 14 seats of the Kashmir Valley.

In the 18 Assembly seats of Jammu and Kashmir over 14.73 lakh voters including 7.05 lakh females are eligible to exercise their franchise at 1,890 polling stations in four districts of the state --Srinagar, Anantnag, Shopian (Kashmir Valley) and Samba (Jammu region).

Among the candidates in the fray for this phase are Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the former Chief Minister and People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, seeking re-election from Sonawar and Anantnag respectively.

In the six constituencies of Anantnag district, PDP candidates are seen as favourites, with the party seeking to retain four seats.

Two Congress Ministers, G A Mir and Peerzada Mohammad Saeed, are also seeking re-election from the district.

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