Where Kashmiri votes hang by a rope

April 24th, 2009 - 6:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, April 24 (IANS) He crossed the mighty Chenab river - sliding from one bank to another on a rope pulley - to reach the polling station. But Zahid Hussain, a labourer in the mountainous Kishtwar area of Jammu and Kashmir, did not cast his vote.
“I changed my mind just as I reached the polling station and did not vote. Instead, I went for my daily work,” said Hussain who had boarded the pulley at Sazar point, 40 km from Kishtwar.

The likes of Hussain are disillusioned with the system. “We still cross the river on a rope like our great grandfathers did, through this rope, even if we vote,” he told reporters. Voting was held in his Udhampur constituency Thursday.

Kishtwar, where it is biting cold at this time of the year, is 210 km northeast of here.

Its residents as a matter of routine cross the Chenab by sliding over a rope tied to boulders on the banks of the river. People either attach themselves to the pulley with the help of a cloth or a wooden plank known as a cradle box.

The distance between the river’s banks varies from 100 to 200 feet. But even children go to school by crossing the river.

To an outsider it appears dangerous and risky but locals living on either side of the river use it regularly as there is a connectivity problem. People even carry their ration or cattle across the river like this.

“We do not have to learn how to use the rope from anyone - it is like walking and eating,” said Hussain.

Mohammad Iqbal of Tutinag village said it takes 8-10 hours to reach the road through the bridle path, “whereas this way we can cross the river in a few minutes”.

Many accidents have taken place, especially in the rainy season, when the rope slips or a person loses his or her grip midway.

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