| Jadab Nath shows his ink-marked finger in Goalpara on Thursday. Picture by Nazmul Hoque |
Dhubri/Goalpara, April 24: Election for people working outside their villages in Assam’s Dhubri and Goalpara districts is an exercise that not only helps them “ward off” questions about their citizenship but is also a time of “reunion” with family and friends.
Nearly 2.5 lakh voters from these two districts under Dhubri constituency work outside, mostly as daily wage earners for want of employment opportunities at home.
The voters start coming home a day or two ahead of any poll — be it panchayat, Assembly or Lok Sabha elections.
Joynal Abedin, 40, Wazed Molla, 35, Abu Talek, 25, Surman Ali, 35 — all from Airkata gaon panchayat of South Salmara constituency who work as labourers at construction sites in Guwahati — consider the voting day as an auspicious day for which they take at least five days’ leave.
“We spend money to come home as everyone who works outside comes home before the voting day. It is another occasion when people meet each other and share a meal or two,” Abedin said.
Abedin is not alone. Ask Jadab Nath, a bus driver in Tura and a resident of Baguan, about 35km from Goalpara town, and you get the idea on how important his vote is for him.
“Elections are like festivals for people like us as we get a chance to go home and meet our families. Then again, I am afraid if I do not cast my vote I may be declared a ‘doubtful’ voter. I also fear that if I do not vote, my children will not get government jobs in future,” Nath, who has never missed an election, said.
The 55-year-old has been working outside his village since he lost his father about four decades back. “I had to support my family and so left for Tura where I worked as a tea stall boy, a cook, a truck helper and now a bus driver,” he said.
Apart from Tura and Williamnagar in Garo hills, there is a sizeable workforce from the two districts eking out a living in places like Guwahati, Imphal, Shillong and Tinsukia.
Dhubri has a total electorate of 15,48,849. The turnout in today’s polls in Dhubri till 7pm was 80.97 per cent.
Social worker Solaiman Haque of Fulkakata village under South Salmara Assembly constituency said: “Though elector’s photo identity cards (EPIC) have been issued, the D-voter tag still plagues them. The NRC issue is yet to be settled. So voting right is the last resort to prove their citizenship.”
Molla says a majority of parties active in Dhubri want people to vote for them. “They try to influence us and claim that they have got voter identity cards and so we should vote for them,” Molla said.
Abdul Rasid, 55, of Aironjongla village of Dhubri district said this time “voting is important” as he wants to live in peace.
“Apart from the question of a citizen who must vote, it is now a question of living in peace. We will vote as we want to live in peace. We hope a strong government is formed in Delhi so as to create an environment where people irrespective of caste, creed and religion can live freely and peacefully,” Rasid added.