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Kashmiri women contesting poll to usher in change

National, Fri, 28 Nov 2008 IANS

Srinagar, Nov 28 (IANS) Five women among the 71 candidates in five assembly constituencies in north Kashmir's Kupwara district, which go to the polls on Nov 30, say they are contesting to usher in change.


Shabnum Gani Lone, a senior lawyer and daughter of slain separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, is challenging candidates of the regional National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), besides independents, in the Kupwara assembly constituency.The Nov 30 polling will be in the third of the seven-phase elections in Jammu and Kashmir.



Shabnum Lone decided to fight the elections as an independent candidate despite the fact that both her brothers, Sajad Lone and Bilal Lone, who are in the separatist camp, have been asking the people to boycott the elections here.



Her father originally belonged to Kupwara and his goodwill among the people there could come in handy for her despite opposition from her brothers.



'I am here to usher in a change and nobody can stop me from doing that. I have left it completely to the people of Kupwara to decide whether or not they should repose their confidence in me', she told reporters when asked why she plunged into the poll arena.



A rebel in her own right, Shabnum is composed, confident and cool during her poll meetings.



Though she does not appear to have the money to match the campaign of her rivals who have dozens of campaign vehicles at their disposal, both the NC and the PDP in Kupwara cannot afford to rule out her challenge. Two other women are contesting from the Karnah constituency. Taja Parveen is a Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) candidate while Saiyda Begum is contesting on the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket.



Similarly, in Handwara, Hanifa Begum will contest as a BSP candidate while Shafiqa Begum, the other woman candidate, is from the Panthers' Party.



Taja Parveen of the PDF had been a school teacher before she married a doctor from Karnah and later decided to join the elections in her husband's home constituency.



'Woman of Karnah are perhaps the most neglected in the valley. Because of the remoteness of the area, women have mostly been relegated to the hearth though men here are well educated.



'I am here to arouse the political consciousness of these women', Taja Parveen said.



As a good number of women voters turned out in the first two phases on Nov 17 and Nov 23, rivals taking women candidates lightly in the valley may well be doing so to their own peril.


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