Voting is going on for the District Development Council (DDC) in Jammu and Kashmir and people are getting excited. This is the first election, with article 370 removed. In such a situation, this is a big achievement for the government as well. Refugees, Valmiki and Gurkha community members from West Pakistan are also voting in this election. They have become eligible to vote after Article 370 is removed. They can also buy land here and contest elections.

On August 5 last year, the Center abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. After this, the government implemented many laws, including laws related to land and citizenship. Sujati Bharti, a woman from West Pakistan refugee community standing in a queue outside a polling station in Kot Ghari in Akhnoor block on the outskirts of Jammu, said, ‘We have heard words like equality, justice and freedom and today we feel the real meaning of these words are doing.’

Bharti thanked her for the Center’s decision to remove Article 370 and said that people in her community are exercising their franchise in the local elections after 70 years. Bharti said she felt free to queue as a permanent resident. He said justice was finally found after a seven-decade-long struggle.

Except for parliamentary elections, these refugees were deprived of voting in assembly, panchayat and urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir till last year. Another voter, Bishan Das (67 years), said he does not want to miss the past but hopes for a bright future in which his grandchildren, grandchildren can find jobs without going out. He said, ‘We have become strong. Earlier no one used to come to us to ask for votes. Today, every candidate came to the door thrice. ‘

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