In Kashmir, A 25-Year-Old Techie Is Running Against Farooq Abdullah

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In Kashmir, A 25-Year-Old Techie Is Running Against  Farooq Abdullah

Mehraj Khursheed Malik, 25, is contesting the Srinagar parliamentary by-poll as an independent candidate.


Srinagar:  Mehraj Khursheed Malik is contesting the parliamentary by-elections against former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, 79, from the Srinagar seat. And he knows that he doesn't stand a chance in a seat that has been a stronghold of the Abdullah family for decades.

But it isn't the hopes of winning an election that persuaded the 25-year-old IT techie to chuck his job in Bengaluru and come back home. It is to help bring back peace in the valley, said Mr Malik who was born in the early nineties when militancy was at its peak.

"It's not about winning and losing. It's about how can I contribute and make society better, how I can contribute towards peace and prosperity in the Valley. Since the last 70 years, we have no peace here," said Mr Malik, convinced that people were unhappy were mainstream parties.

One way, he said, was to convince people that if they want change, the only way to make it happen was by participating in elections, not staying away.

"If you boycott elections, it will only help those you want to be defeated. Boycott is not an answer. How is it helping any cause?" he argues, a point that he often makes as he went door-to-door in the remote villages of Budgam district in Kashmir to canvass support.

In the aftermath of the recent unrest in Kashmir, the campaign for the by-elections in Srinagar and Anantnag is a low-key one. Major political parties like the ruling People's Democratic Party or PDP and the National Conference have not been able to organise any major election rallies.

A small group of youngsters who support him say they will vote for him even though they know the result. "He is the youngest, which is a change. He's independent, a professional who could have pursued his job but left it to lead in politics and show a new way," said Mohammad Aslam.

The PDP won the seat in the 2014 general elections - it was the second time since 1977 that the NC had lost the seat - but the PDP lawmaker Tariq Hamid Karra resigned the seat to protest alleged brutalities against Kashmiri protesters. He recently joined the Congress.

On Tuesday, Mr Abdullah's campaign managers had to cancel meetings planned in Budgam after a young man died in police action to disperse stone-pelting protesters near an encounter site.


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