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Panchayat polls bring new faces to limelight in Kashmir

The first Kashmiri Pandit woman who defeated her rivals, she sees her election as an opportunity to serve the belt.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 11, 2011, 01.00 AM IST
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SRINAGAR: When Asha was declared the elected president of Wusan Panchayat in north of Srinagar on Monday, she had no idea that it will take her to the front pages of newspapers. The first Kashmiri Pandit woman who defeated her rivals, she sees her election as an opportunity to serve the belt that took care of her family even at the peak of darkness.

"At one point of time when almost every Pandit was fleeing Kashmir, we also did consider it. But the entire village came and prevented us from leaving," said Asha. Since then, she insists it was the neighbourhood that would be at the family's beck and call.

"For last 27 years, I am working as a helper in the local high school that pays me 150 a month," Asha said. "My victory is a clear message to all the community that lives outside Kashmir," she told reporters. "If they (read Muslims) can protect and elect me, what are the fears left?"

Amid apprehensions of unrest, the panchayat election continues to be the single biggest success story of the year. Barring two instances involving fugitives, seven phases of the polls are peacefully over.

Asha is just a face in a huge crowd that is getting elected to manage the gross-root level institutions. Pervaiz Ahmad Mir, a 27-year-old software engineer turned model had run a campaign to become the Sarpanch of his remote Lachipora belt in Uri. "I sincerely believe my villages need me for sometime," he said. The elected men and women have their own priorities. "I have the priority of offering the people an environment free from fear and harassment," said Hamdullah Dar, who was elected Sarpanch from Kakawthal in Baramulla.

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