From stones to ballots: Srinagar’s Downtown ‘walks a step forward this time’

Srinagar: Removing the tag of being Kashmir’s stone pelting hub, Srinagar’s downtown or old city areas Monday wore a festive look as Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency went to polls. The areas that remained in the headlines of newspapers for stone pelting, street protests, sounds of pellets and bullets witnessed long queues of elderly, women and youth including first time voters casting their vote with a hope that choosing ballot would change downtown’s fate.

Zaid, a young voter, who cast his vote at Nowhatta polling station, while speaking to KNO, said that downtown has suffered a lot in the past despite having rich cultural heritage and huge tourism potential including the pilgrim tourism. “We have revered shrines and temples across downtown which can attract tourists in large numbers. Boycott never benefited us. I voted to see a change. I am sure, our representative will speak about downtown’s huge potential in the Parliament,” the 24-year-old voter said. “This is my first vote as I realised that staying away from the ballot never benefits us. Let downtown flourish as we have suffered a lot in the past. It is time to see change and taste the benefits of votes.”

A few hundred meters away from Nowhatta polling station, women and elderly were waiting for their turn to exercise their franchise. “Enough is enough. Sitting at home will lead us nowhere. Vote power is to be utilised and today we have broken the shackles of the past. Downtown is a congested locality where people are downtrodden despite the huge potential of craft tourism,” said Saleema, 42, also a first time voter.

She said that downtown needs a serious touch and “today’s vote can change the fate of the old city as our representative will seek Centres attention towards us in the Lok Sabha.”

A group of women voters at Mohalla-e-Makhdoom sahab (RA), said downtown was always neglected in the past by Member Parliaments’ and also by the Ministers and Members of Legislative Assemblies. “Stones, bullets and pellets took away our youth and paralysed our livelihood. It is time to move forward,” they said. “Now that peace is in the air, let’s hope for a better tomorrow.”

Downtown is a vast area, though congested at most of the places, which comprises half of Srinagar’s total population. This time, in absence of boycott calls, street protests and fear of stone pelting, leaders of political parties conducted rallies in many parts of the old city to garner support. Kashmir is witnessing its first Lok Sabha elections post abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

Ghulam Qadir, a 70-year-old resident of Nawa Kadal area of old city, said enough is enough and this is the time to see the ease in the sufferings of downtown residents. “How long will we and our children suffer? I voted for better tomorrow and an end to our sufferings. Hope my vote pays back. Staying away is futile,” he said. Brisk voting was recorded at Nawa Kadal, Rainawari and areas surrounding Dal Lake in the Srinagar’s old city, reflecting a change in the people’s mood who otherwise would prefer to sit home on the poll day.


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