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Kashmiris have voted for democracy: Sonia
Basholi/ SRINAGAR (Jammu and Kashmir), May 23 (IANS):
Published on 24 May. 2011 1:00 AM IST
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Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Monday hailed Kashmiris for the large turnout in the panchayat elections, saying it was a definitive message they had faith in democracy, peace and development. "People here have demonstrated their courage in an exemplary fashion against the forces of violence and those behind the acts of terror," Gandhi said, referring to the polls at a rally here after laying the foundation of a Rs.145 crore river bridge. "It's a historic moment, people through their large participation have demonstrated their unwavering faith in democracy," said Gandhi, who is on her first visit to the state this year.
Kashmir is holding 16-phased panchayat polls which has so far seen more than 80 percent participation of voters. "They have voted for democracy and development, to which both the United Progressive Alliance government (in New Delhi) and the state government are committed in full measure," she said.
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah are working together on this," she said. Congress is the junior ally in National Conference-led state government. Without mentioning terrorists or separatists who had given a boycott call for the panchayat polls, Gandhi said voters have delivered a stunning message that they are for "peace and development". Basholi is in Kathua district. The 592-metre bridge over Ravi will connect Jammu and Kashmir with Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
The Basohli bridge is going to be a technological marvel. It will be a cable-stayed bridge, similar to the second Hooghly bridge in Kolkota, the Naini Bridge in Uttar Pradesh's Allahabad and the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link in Mumbai.
The Basohli bridge will have a tower height of about 88 metres above deck level. The decking and the span regions will only be supported by cables. There will be 1.5-metre-wide footpaths on both the sides.
Kashmiris worried over Karachi terror attack
The Karachi naval base terror attack has caused concern in Jammu and Kashmir, with many residents monitoring television closely Monday and saying any instability in Pakistan could have a serious fallout here.
As news of the Karachi attack spread in summer capital Srinagar, cell phones started ringing. Locals asked friends and relatives what had actually happened there.
“I was in college when somebody told me the Karachi naval base had been attacked by terrorists. It is a matter of concern for all Kashmiris because developments in Pakistan have always had a serious fallout here,” said Riyaz Ahmad, a college teacher here. Even journalists rushed to their offices for updates on the massive attack which began Sunday night. Fierce gunfights raged after heavily-armed terrorists stormed PNS Mehran, Pakistan’s first naval air station, destroyed two surveillance aircraft and left five personnel dead. The guerrillas also reportedly took an unknown number of hostages.
“First news came about the attack on the naval base in Karachi. This was followed by another report that the terrorists had taken many people hostage inside a building at the base. It is a matter of worry for every peace-loving Kashmiri,” said Imran, a young TV news reporter here. “Whenever earth-shaking developments have taken place in Pakistan, we have a direct bearing of that in Kashmir.”
For instance, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan in 1979, protests in Srinagar claimed five Kashmiri lives. Protests also erupted in Kashmir when Gen Zia-ul-Haq, the man responsible for Bhutto’s hanging, died in a plane crash in 1988.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also expressed worry in a tweet.
“How soon before someone in Pakistan blames India for #Karachi & draws parallels to #26/11. What’s happening in Pakistan is bad for India”.
Even Kashmiris with little access to technology talked of the Karachi attack.
“After Osama’s killing, it was always feared that Pakistan would have to face reprisal attacks from his supporters,” said Mehraj-ud-Din, 42, a fruit seller, referring to the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces.
“It is not good news at all. If the security of Pakistan is endangered, the situation in the neighbourhood would be adversely affected,” said the seller who hawks fruits at the fashionable Residency Road area of Srinagar.
Youths with an informed outlook and who carry no baggage of the past also expressed concern.
“Times have slowly but steadily changed. Wisdom and better sense have started prevailing on the leaders in India and Pakistan. But instability in Pakistan can usher in another army dictatorship and dictators always thrive on tensions and wars.”
Irfan Ahmad, 27, a university student here, said: “Karachi attacks are a huge blow to the political stability of Pakistan.”

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