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Sumbal Sonawari:We voted to protect JK’s special status

Mudassir Kuloo

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Photo: Ibrahim Mussa/KM

Bandipora, Apr 11: The road to main town in Bandipora was devoid of traffic Thursday morning but queues of voters were seen waiting to cast their votes outside the polling booths.

Voters had lined-up in large numbers at a polling booth set up in a local school in Dangerpora. The booth was ringed with three-tier security comprising of CRPF, police, and BSF.

Ghulam Hassan, 60, had reached to the polling booth early in the morning.

 

Asked why he cast his vote and defy the boycott call by separatists and militant outfits, he replied: “We want to end Governor’s rule in the state. We shall send a representative to the parliament, who will end our miseries. This vote is to protect our special status. Protect Article 370 and 35A.”

Asked the same question, a woman, carrying a child in her lap, replied: “Unless we don’t vote, our miseries won’t end. The harassment will continue and outsiders will rule us. We want Mohammad Akbar Lone in the parliament.”

The scenes were almost similar at a polling booth in Shadipora.

“We always want a good representative in the parliament. He should represent the Kashmir cause,” Ghulam Mohammad, 60, said.

“We also want overall development of our area,” he added while displaying the ink mark on his finger nail.

Near NC Candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone’s home at Poshwari Naidkhai, the queues of the voters grew even longer.

At three polling booths located at a local school in Poshwari, out of 1800 voters, at least 50 percent had already cast their votes by 1 pm.

At the same time, the polling agents of political parties had a scuffle. “Why are you asking people to vote for your candidate?” a middle-aged man told a polling agent of the rival party.

Another polling agent tried to push him. The policemen on duty, however, pacified things and the voting restarted.

Abdul Rashid, who was waiting in a queue, said there was “nothing wrong in casting the vote”.

“This election is to address our issues and to defend state’s special status. There will be bloodshed if there is any tampering with special status of the state. Only Akbar Lone and Engineer Rashid can talk about Kashmir issue in the parliament,” he said.

The three polling booths of Manzpora, Mirpora, and Hirpora villages of Sonawari wore a festive look.

Hundreds of people even including children had gathered to shout slogans in favour of Lone.

In these polling booths as well, of the 3500 voters, over 50 percent had already cast their vote by 2 PM.

Abdul Salam Lone, an elderly person, said: “Only Lone Sahab can talk about Kashmir in the parliament. This vote is to protect the special status of the state, and stop harassment of Kashmiris.”

A first time voter in parliamentary elections, Naziya asked other people to vote as well.

“We shall send a representative to the parliament, who conveys the sufferings of Kashmiris to the world. Poll boycott is no solution,” she added.

Scores of people visited Lone at his house which was a few hundred metres away from the polling booths.

“Did you and your mother vote,” Lone asked his son, who is an advocate by profession.

“Yes we did,” he replied.

The entire village seemed jubilant.

The scenes, however, were completely different just a few kilometers away from Lone’s residence.

The road leading to Hajin town wore a deserted look. At three polling booths, just three voters out of 2,235 had cast their vote by 3 pm.

“Please write that Hajin boycotted the elections,” a commuter told this reporter.

A few hundred metres away, in another polling booth on the banks of Jhelum in Hajin, out of 876 voters, 345 had cast their vote.

“When we saw people voting, we decided to vote too. We have been neglected by the successive governments. We hope our issues are solved,” said Manzoor Ahmad Guroo, who lives on the banks of Jhelum and earns his living by catching and selling fish.


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Lead Stories

UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman

Press Trust of India

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”

“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.

On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.

“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.

Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.

“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.

The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.

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Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York

Press Trust of India

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NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.

The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.

Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.

The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.

, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.

Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.

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Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report

Agencies

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The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.

The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.

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