Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], December 1 (ANI): West Pakistani refugees of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday cast their vote for local body elections for the first time.
Ramesh has been living in Jammu for the past 70 years, but never got his fundamental right to vote or to choose his local leader. However, after the abrogation of Article 370 during District Development Council (DDC) election he finally cast his vote.
"We have been staying here for 70 years, this the first time we got the opportunity to vote, we are really happy, and thankful to the government. Earlier even we were not getting the benefit of the government's scheme; we were called 'Pakistani'. My 'Baba' came here from Pakistan," said Ramesh, a refugee living in Bassi Khurd village in Jammu.
However, the refugees have the right to vote in the Lok Sabha election but till last year, were not eligible to vote in Panchayat and urban local body polls.
"We are really happy that our people got the opportunity to vote in the DDC election. Leaders used to ignore us as we don't use to have voting rights," said Labha Ram Gandhi, President of West Pakistani Refugee Action Committee.
According to the State Election Commission, a total of 48.62 per cent of people cast their vote in the second phase of the DDC election.
"The overall voting percentage for the second phase of the elections has recorded a voter percentage of 48.62 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir. 65.54 per cent votes polled in Jammu division and 33.34 per cent votes polled in Kashmir division," said KK Sharma, State Election Commissioner.
The DDC election is being held in eight phases and will go on till December 19. The counting of votes will take place on December 22. The elections are the first being held after the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganisation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)