Gujjar Bakerwal forum to contest polls, accuse previous regimes of neglecting them

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Jehangir Lolabi

Kupwara, Sep 25: The Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar Bakarwal Pahari Awami Forum (JKGBPAF), on Tuesday accused all previous regimes in the state of neglecting Gujjars and Bakerwal community.
The forum organised a Maha Panchayat at Town Hall Kupwara and announced to field its candidates as independents in the panchayat elections.
“We voted for candidates in the past but they never turned up after voting was over and our all issues may it be lack of electricity, potable water, better roads mobile communications and other issues remained unresolved and our community members continue to suffer and remain in stone age while all other communities made great strides in every walks of life,” Abdul Rehman Badana, a senior member of the forum while briefing the reporters said.
The forum has been formed for sole purpose of seeking redress to genuine and long pending demands of the community, he said.
“Unless we raise voice and seek redress of our demands, no one from outside would come and help us out as has been proven by history how people from outside only sought votes from us but only to betray us,” Rehman said.
He said that he forum is also a part of the civil society fighting for peace restoration in the region, organized today a Maha Panchayat at Kupwara district to decide its plan of action for the Panchayat elections scheduled in November this year.
More than 5000 people participated in the march from Kupwara town hall to Ragipura raising slogans “Paigam -e- Mohabbat zindabad” and “Gujjar- Bakarwa- pahadi ekata zindabad”.
In the background of boycott of Panchayat elections by the prominent political parties of Jammu and Kashmir, the Gujjar Bakarwal Pahari community has decided to fight for their rights through the electoral process.
Members from the Gujjar Bakarwal Pahari community, that makes about 25% of the total population, have been strong advocates of democracy and the political system. However, the elections boycott call has not been well accepted by the community. They have decided to fight for their rights under the banner of JKGBPAF.
“Thousands of people from the community met at the Maha Panchayat and decided the next course of action. A core committee was formed during the meeting, which will later give a report on the population-base at each Panchayat. Based on the report we may select a leader with mass appeal and field him as the candidate to contest the elections as an independent one,” said, Irfan Bhadana, a coordinator of the JKGBPAF.
“We have decided to contest elections,” said Roshandin Bara, one of the organizers, “It is said that we are 11 percent but the fact of the matter is we are 30 to 35 percent of state population. We have many provisions for growth and development under constitution but we have not been able to avail because of lack of education. This Maha Panchayat would be a step forward in that direction.” (GNS)