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Saturday, January 16, 2021

PoK to J&K: Past the fences, she is still not ‘home’

Counting was stopped on similar grounds at Hajin constituency of Bandipore, where a candidate, Pakistani wife of a militant who returned under the rehabilitation programme, was contesting.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar | Updated: December 23, 2020 12:02:54 pm
jammu kashmir, jammu kashmir ddc elections, Somia Sadaf, jammu kashmir district council polls, pok, POk candidate, india pakistan border, kupwara, indian express newsSomia Sadaf, family crossed over 10 years ago. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

In the chilling winter cold, Somia Sadaf spent days travelling home to home in villages of Drugmulla constituency of Kupwara, trying to convince people to vote for her. She was the first woman from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to contest the DDC polls.

As Drugmulla went to polls in the fourth phase on December 7, the turnout kept Sadaf’s hopes alive. But as she anxiously awaited the results on Tuesday, the counting for the DDC seat was not allowed.

Reason: Sadaf, and her domicile.

On Tuesday, counting for the seat was stopped after the office of the State Election Commissioner wrote to the Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara, asking him to stop the counting.

“…The State Election Commissioner has directed to defer counting of votes in Drugmulla till further orders in this regard. Ballot boxes and related election material shall be stored in a strong room…” stated the letter, signed by Secretary, State Election Commission.

The letter cited a complaint for “furnishing of wrong information” by Sadaf.

Asking why no one raised the issue when she had filed her nomination, and afterward, Sadaf said, “It was a surprise for me…. Nobody objected for over a month. Suddenly, when I was sure to win this seat, today they didn’t allow counting of votes.”

Sadaf said she is surprised but not sad: “Whatever happens, happens for the good.”

Originally a resident of Muzaffarabad, Sadaf, 36, married Abdul Majeed Bhat, a Kupwara man who had crossed over for arms training, in the early 1990s when militancy began in the Valley. Majeed did not return and instead joined a college in Pakistan, where he met Sadaf. In 2010, Majeed finally returned to the Valley with his wife and four children after the Omar Abdullah government announced amnesty for Kashmiri youths who had crossed over to Pakistan for arms training, and who wanted to surrender and return.

The government announced a rehabilitation policy for them.

Sadaf is a poster woman for Pakistani brides who returned to Kashmir with their families under the rehabilitation policy but are living a miserable life – unlike her counterparts, Sadaf has a passport, she is part Umeed, the government‘s self-help initiative for women, has interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and runs a knitting centre and a dairy farm.

Counting was stopped on similar grounds at Hajin constituency of Bandipore, where a candidate, Pakistani wife of a militant who returned under the rehabilitation programme, was contesting.

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