One arm in a cast, and the other around one of the policemen escorting him, Anees-ul-Islam shifts his weight uneasily as he moves from village to village on Monday. “I missed 10 days of the campaign, this is the last day and I have to make up for my absence,” he says.
On December 4, Anees had been shot four times as he campaigned near his house in the Sagam area of Kokernag in Anantnag district. Contesting on a J&K Apni Party ticket from Anantnag, Anees is the only candidate to have come under attack in the on-going elections to the District Development Councils (DDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir, the first electoral exercise after the scrapping of its special status.
The next and penultimate phase of voting is on Wednesday. There are 17 candidates in the fray for the Anantnag DDC seat. A total of 31 constituencies will vote Wednesday, 13 of them in the Kashmir division.
December 4 was a Friday, and Anees had wrapped up campaigning early to return home for prayers. “I met a few people and as I was walking towards my car, two people stood up, one of them brought out a pistol and started shooting at me.” He was struck four times, in the arm and near the hip. Four bullets hit the car he was about to board. Anees was taken to the Sub-District Hospital in Kokernag and then to Srinagar’s Bone and Joint Hospital.
On Tuesday, the 33-year-old made pit stops at each of the 16 villages that make up the Anantnag DDC in a six-car cavalcade, most of them comprising security personnel. The injuries make it difficult for him to keep getting out of his bullet-proof Ambassador car, but Anees makes the effort and, delivering short speeches, makes a fervent appeal: “I have been given a new lease of life and I wish to spend it working for you.”
In 1995, when he was seven, Anees’s father had been killed by “unidentified gunmen”. He says the attack on him, “in the same manner”, has strengthened his resolve.
The J&K Police had blamed terrorists for the December 4 attack, and said Anees had failed to convey information regarding his movement to them.
Formerly with the National Conference, Anees, a post-graduate in political science, has been involved in active politics for about seven years. He joined the Apni Party, which came up earlier this year and is seen as propped up by the Centre, less than a month ago, and says it was “political inertia” on the part of elected leaders that drove him to contest.
“Young people bear the brunt of the existing scenario. They are the most misunderstood and are the ones who deal with the fallout of any political decisions. Yet, there is no one who will listen to them,” he says. Anees believes he is best placed to fill that void as he knows the pain of not having one’s voice heard, despite the fact that he is a political worker.
“I am one of your own,” Anees says repeatedly in his speeches, a message that other contestants too have been stressing in this election. To a crowd of about 60 people, he adds, “If we don’t stand up for ourselves now, when will we do so?”
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