Return Home, There’s No threat in Valley: Asha Ji

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Wussan (Kunzer): There is a batch of joyous villagers including women sitting in the courtyard to get a glimpse of the lady. Media men are anxiously waiting for her to get an interview. The otherwise silent house has become a centre of buzz.
Asha Ji, 52, grabbed spotlight in this tiny hamlet of north Kashmir by becoming first Kashmiri Pandit woman Panch in the ongoing Panchayat polls. Her win was being celebrated by the villagers on Tuesday. And her message was clear- the migrant Pandits should return to Kashmir as there was no security threat or vicious atmosphere as being projected.
“I want the Pandits living outside Valley to return immediately to their homeland,”Asha said. “There is no threat as such. I am a living example of that. Our family never left the Valley, neither we were harmed by anybody in the past 20 years. They should come home, not to the camps or colonies set up by the Government.”
She said both Muslim men and women encouraged her to file for the Panch post.
“I was not sure of my win. But it happened. All the votes which were cast in my favour belonged to Muslims,” Asha said. “I have no words to describe my happiness.”
Wusan village lying in the foot hills of Pirpanchal range houses 295 families. Ten were Pandit families.
“Five families left,” she said. “However, we along with five others stayed back. The Muslim brethren did not allow all the Pandits out of the village to leave.”
In 1990s life was not easy in Wussan. Crackdowns, raids and violence went on unabated. The top three Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commanders- Muhammad Ahsan Dar, Shams-ul-Haq and Ashraf Dar belonged to nearby Kalipora village.
“The Pandits never even got a scratch. Even in last three agitations of 2008, 2009, 2010 we were not touched,” Asha said. “Life was tough, but Muslim brothers and sisters were with us.”
Asha actually belonged to Baderwah area of Jammu and was married to Radhakrishan in 1984. She has two sons, Suresh Kumar Bhat, a police constable, and Ashok Kumar. Apart from doing domestic chores, she works as a peon in a nearby school.
After the news of her becoming Panch came out, the entire village became jubilant. The villagers including women and men gathered at her house to congratulate.
“She is a good woman,” Abdul Qadir, a villager said. “And we wanted to vote for her.”
Asha said she would come to the expectations of the village and help in its progress. “Through Panchayat system many things can be resolved. We have no electricity, water or good roads. We can work in that direction.”
Asha belonged to Ward 5 of Wusan village, but she contested from Ward 4 as it was reserved for woman. Out of 98 votes polled in her Ward, she got 54 votes while her opponent Sarwah Begum got 43. One vote was rejected.
Sarwah Begum, the defeated candidate, however complained that there was bungling in voting.
“Asha belongs to (Agriculture Minister) Ghulam Hassan’s Mir’s party. They in connivance with administration and local polling officers were involved in rigging and bungling,” Begum said. “How is it possible that Ganaie Mohalla which was backing me and has largest number of votes will vote for Asha? I was not allowed to enter polling station but Asha was allowed during voting and as well as during counting. I demand re-polling for the post.”

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