SRINAGAR – A video showing Kashmir’s only woman minister asking man to take an oath on Qur'an to vote for her party has gone viral on social networks, amid accusations of breaching the election code of conduct in the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir district.
“Recite the ‘Kalima Toiba’- Hazrat Muhammad is messenger of Allah- and take a pledge that you will support me,” one of the workers of Sakina Itoo repeatedly told Gul Mohd Malik, a resident of Ringth in Noorabad South Kashmir, in the criticized video, First Post reported on Monday, March 31.
Using Qur’an to guarantee voters’ loyalty is not a new trend in Kashmir.
For decades, political leaders have been using such trend to force people in rural areas of Kashmir to take vows to vote for them with their hands on the Qur’an, always behind closed doors.
This has changed after a video was posted online showing Social Welfare minister Itoo, the only woman minister in Omar Abdullah’s government and her workers forcing a Kashmiri elder to vote for her party in coming election.
Malik, a supporter of Itoo’s now deceased father, is seen being forced to make the promise, though he responds with vehemence that Quran is meant for recitation and not to take vows on.
But the minister, Itoo, is seen grabbing the hand of the Malik compelling him to take the vow.
The video went viral on internet social networks, being uploaded by thousands of people who reposted it to ridicule the minister for using the Quran as a means to garner votes.
It seems for the minister, a National Conference (NC) leader who is facing anti-incumbency in her constituency, the Qur’an has become the only resort to change the minds of voters.
The video sparked immediate defense from the disctrict’s chief minister and leaders of the National Conference party.
“I’ve spoken to Sakina, this video was taken months before the election code. She isn’t threatening anyone, she isn’t abusing anyone,” Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in a tweet to defend Itoo’s action.
Abdullah, however, failed to explain why she was using the Qur’an to ensure votes.
The National Conference Spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu while defending the minister said that there was nothing wrong what Itoo had done.
He claimed it was part of Kashmiri culture and there was no violation of the Model Code of Conduct despite what the opposition PDP may claim.
“We don’t believe she has done anything wrong. It is part of vernacular in Kashmir,” Mattu told Firstpost.
“There are much more bigger issues to be focused on. If PDP wants to focus on this issue let them. This video was taken months back before the code of conduct came into force. She is not forcing him to do anything,” he added.
Attacking the NC, People Democratic Party said that the video proves that Itoo has violated the election code of conduct.
“Can you ask a men a to take oath on Quran and vote,” PDP spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said.“It shows the deep frustration of the National Conference leaders because they know they have lost the people's faith.”
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