Apart from former CM Mehbooba Mufti, one more woman is contesting for the parliamentary seat of Kashmir’s Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in this election. Entrepreneur and physiotherapist Dr. Ridwana Sanam filed her nomination to contest independently from the conflict-ridden constituency of South Kashmir. She told SheThePeople.TV that she grew up in the small town of Pahalgam, Anantnag district, thus she feels deeply connect to the land. Which is why she wanted to contest from Anantnag.
ENTREPRENEURIAL AND DIGITAL CHANGE
A big advocate of digital literacy and entrepreneurship, Sanam runs an online platform KRV healthcare platform with “more than 50 Indian & International doctors on call” providing physiotherapy services at the doorstep," its website says. The chairperson for PHD Chambers of Commerce & Industry (State Expert Committee) Jammu & Kashmir, she received "Women of Substance" award from former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in 2013.
Sanam has a political background as she is the daughter of ex MLA from Pahalgam and former NC leader, Kabir Pathan. However, she did not join any party to contest in the election. Telling her reason to contest independently she said, “Parties here don’t encourage younger people to contest in the elections. They want older candidates and thus weren’t ready to take risk. And while I feel a sense of freedom to canvass the way I want to, it is a bit challenging as well. There is no party cadre or support with me while I go from town to town to talk to people. As an independent candidate I did not have to pay the party fund and I invested that money in campaigning.”
She is using social media to campaign for the election and is also going from village to village in order to canvas. “I am bearing the transportation and public gathering expenses. It is not that expensive and I feel that if we do it honestly we can win people’s hearts. It also depends on politicians how they want to lure people,” she added. Her manifesto comprises of “six mantras”—jobs and skill development, safety for women and young children, supporting young entrepreneurship, promoting health and fitness in South Kashmir, improving hygiene in shrines and effective anti-drug campaign.
PROBLEMS OF KASHMIR
“The present scenario of whatever is going on in South Kashmir with the corruption and protests motivates me to bring about a change. When it comes to the dignity of our youth, there are no policies and development in place and seeing this I realize that I can play a good role by becoming their representative in the parliament and making efforts to bring the entrepreneurial wave in Kashmir.
Acknowledging the insurgency in the area with several cases of stone pelting, pellet gun shooting cases etc. she said, “The present scenario in South Kashmir motivates me to bring about a change. When it comes to the dignity of our youth, there are no policies and development in place and seeing this I realized that by becoming their representative in the parliament and I can make efforts to bring the entrepreneurial wave in Kashmir. I have a soft corner for this place and I believe that we can transform the youth here with a constructive attempt.”
OPPORTUNITY IN PARLIAMENT
Sanam is extremely confident about contesting against former CM Mufti and claims, “I believe that leading politicians here don’t have good reputation because they haven’t done anything in the departments of development or employment. So there is a huge opportunity for me to win,” she added. The constituency goes to poll on 23 April.
Sanam points out that she wants to be apolitical. “I would like to see myself as the voice of the people and I am not here for power and position. My biggest motivation is that my friends, relatives and acquaintances live here. I am the daughter of this place so I wanted to contest from here.”
Unless we have more women in parliament, how will women empowerment happen?
She feels that politics is good, if used correctly to serve people and while she is one of the very few women candidates (two to be precise) that hasn’t deterred her from joining politics. “Safety concerns and the restrictive mind-set that curbs women’s freedom, are the reasons why more women from Kashmir aren’t contesting elections. Women have to have courage to come forward and take a call. Unless we have more women in parliament, how will women empowerment happen?” Sanam questions.
Picture credit-STP original