They cover 5 km snowbound forest to cast their votes

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Line of Control (Neeru), Nov 17 (UNI) A 45-year-old Robena was among 20 voters, mostly women, who covered five km snowbound hilly forest on foot to cast their votes in a polling station set up here in Gurez Assembly constituency.

We left our houses at 0800 hrs in village Sikander, a km away from the Line of Control (LoC) despite minus temperature and about one feet of snow accumulated in the area, she said.

A 65-year-old Gulzar Mir, who accompanied the women from the village to the polling booth set up in the Government Middle School at Neeru, said he has participated in all previous elections.

He said the village had a total of 60 voters and 20 have already arrived here to cast their votes. When we will go back, other voters from the village, mostly men, will come and cast their ballots, he added.

Robena and other women, who could not speak or understand Kashmiri or Urdu language, had come in colourful dresses to cast their votes.

Speaking Dard Sheena language, they said their village though a backward, was politically matured.

They said they do not know about any poll boycott by separatist organisations.

We are living on the LoC and our village was being targetted before the ceasefire by India and Pakistan, they said.

Vote is our democratic right and we want to utilise it at any cost, they said.

However, they challenged the Election Commissioner of India's (ECI) claim that polling station was being set up within three kms area.

We cover the distance on foot and it took us about two hours to reach here because of snow, the women complained.

They also complained that there was only one room polling station in which both women and men had to cast their votes.

The villagers of Sikander said they were under the direct target of Pakistan army. We suffered massive damage during shelling in Kargil war, they said, adding it was after the ceasefire we are living peacefully.

Similarly, men and women from village Chatipani had to cover four km snowbound hilly area to reach here to cast their votes.

All the previous government had done nothing for the area, which remains cut off from the rest of the state for winter months, said Mohammad Abdullah.

He said he and other voters, including women, left Chatipani village at 0700 hrs in the morning in minus temperature only to reach here at 1100 hrs after covering the distance on foot.

We can also hold violent protests for our rights, but we believe in democracy and it was because of this reason we are taking part despite facing all odds, he said.

Similar views were also expressed by other voters who had come to cast their votes in the polling station.

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