A woman contesting polls for women’s cause (Constituency spotlight)

November 16th, 2008 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bandipora, (Jammu and Kashmir) Nov 16 (IANS) Defying separatists’ boycott call and militant threats, Gousia Bashir, the lone woman candidate in this north Kashmir constituency, says she is contesting the elections to highlight the problems of women and the poor.Bandipora, once a hotbed of militants, goes to the polls Nov 17 in the first of the seven-phase assembly elections. And Gousia is contesting against 21 other candidates, all men.

The main contest is going to be between three arch rivals, the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Awami League. But that has not deterred Gousia, 27, an independent candidate, from trying her luck.

She has floated the “Ghareeb Nawaz (benefactor of poor) Party” and sounds pretty confident of winning the Bandipora seat, to which Awami League’s Usman Majid, a former militant, is seeking reelection.

“I have no money power or the blessing of any major political party. I am fighting it out on my own to focus on the problems of women and the poor people of Bandipora,” Gousia told IANS.

Women candidates are not new to Kashmir polls. Many women have fought elections here in the past and some of them have also made it to the state assembly, but given Gousia’s humble background, she is a lone ranger of sorts.

“I have no political godfathers. I personally believe women have an equal chance to try their luck at the elections.

“But more than that, my decision to contest the elections can help remove the age-old taboo of women shying away from active politics in Kashmir. Kashmiri women have suffered since long,” she said.

Her supporters say Gousia has suffered in her personal life and does not want other women to become victims of exploitation and mental agony.

“She has suffered a lot in her young age. She was in the middle of a kidnap controversy a few years ago. Then she had marital problems with her husband,” said Shabir Ahmad, 29, a resident of Muslimabad in the Bandipora town where Gousia lives.

Gousia has been provided with security to campaign in the constituency of 86,013 voters out of which 40,893 are women.

“We have provided her an armed escort and she has been going around in the constituency to canvas for votes. She seems to be quite enthusiastic about her chances of garnering women’s votes of the constituency,” said Sheikh Junaid, superintendent of police in the Bandipora district.

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