RNA Research & Archives
In the terror heartland, drumbeats have replaced the deafening gun roars. Thanks to elections, this terror sanctuary is reverberating with the music and dance to cheer up the candidates. Nested in the gigantic mountains with dense forest cover, the area, over 100 kilometers from Srinagar, has been the terror corridor for more than two decades.Jungles in the upper reaches had been providing an apt cover to militants. This area used to be the transit camp for the militants who used to infiltrate from across the Line of Control (LOC). This area has witnessed fiercest encounters between army and the ultras in the last 24 years of militancy.Come elections and it is carnival time for the people to celebrate the biggest festival of democracy here. Drummers are busy cheering up the crowds and women are busy singing the songs for candidates as the convoy of electioneers pass by.From bhumroo, bhumroo to famous wanwun (Kashmiri folklore mostly sung during marriages), the women are singing everything to welcome the candidates. Even men are dancing to the drum beats in a traditional way to signal a new beginning in this terror corridor.”This area is quite peaceful now. You can see how enthusiastic people are here. Those preaching poll boycott are living in palatial houses in Srinagar without realising our plight. We are for vote,” said Syed Tariq, a local resident here.Enter Sajjad Lone, former separatist turned mainstream leader, the villagers are now looking for a new dawn. The 47 year old Cardiff educated is making no qualms about meeting prime minister Narendra Modi during his canvassing.”I will go to any extent for your sake. We will do everything for bringing prosperity to this area,” said Lone, who is contesting from Handwara constituency on People’s Conference ticket.Travelling by Pajero and surrounded by his security men and close aides, Lone does not mind mixing with the crowd. Kids, women and men follow him and cheer for his every word. And for a change selfies are popular in this remote part of Kashmir too. Young boys and girls jostled for having selifes with Lone who has attained a celebrity status in the area.”Did you see the area and what sort of condition they live in? It (Kashmir issue) is something which is to be debated in Delhi or Srinagar. These places need other things,” he said.Lone’s connect with the people stems from the fact that he wants to cash in on the goodwill of his father and slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone who had considerable support in Kupwara belt when he was both a mainstream and a separatist leader.”I have come to seek your vote. It is a vote for change and for getting back our rights. It is a vote against zulm (tyranny),” he roared.