For 102-year-old Bakthi Begum voting has become a part of life as she claims to not have missed even a single election since 1957, when the process began in Jammu & Kashmir.
The centenarian mother of six, hailing from remote Haroo village of Bhaderwah tehsil, says she has braved all odds including threats to her life from militants, to exercise her right to vote.
“For the past 60 years, I have never missed a single occasion to vote. Ever since I voted for the first time, I make sure that I don’t miss a single chance…I have voted in all the elections since then,” said Bakthi, who was accompanied by her grandson to Sartingal polling station.
Noting that nothing much has changed in the past six decades in the area, the elderly woman said life continues to be difficult for the inhabitants of this mountainous belt. A strong believer in democracy, Bakthi said each time she goes to vote with a hope that the winning candidate would work for much-needed infrastructural development of the area.
“We need good roads here, many of our villages still remain unconnected which creates lot of problem for us, we need good hospitals and I caste my vote with the hope that our area would be developed,” she added.
From the next dispensation in the state, the centenarian expects that it would open up more job avenues so that the unemployed youth in the area including her grandchildren find employment.
“I want employment for my grandchildren as they remain unemployed,” said Bakhti, who is grandmother to 34 children. For the family comprising of more than 100 registered voters, the elderly woman has been an inspiration for everyone to participate in election process.
“Every time there are elections she gets excited. For the past ten days she has been enquiring about the election date. At the age of 102 she keeps on inspiring us to come out and vote,” Bakthi’s grandson Ashiq Hussan (43) said. Long queues were witnessed at Sartingal polling booth as people from all walks of life came out in large numbers to caste their vote.
Unfazed by the separatist-sponsored boycott call and militant threats, the residents of this area voted amid tight security arrangements in the first phase of elections.