THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the run-up to local body polls, resident Kashmiris and Gujaratis in the state capital pin their hopes on promising candidates. While Kashmiri traders are insistent on the revival of tourism, the Gujarati community is concerned about the lumber business
In the mid-1980s when 13-year-old Syed Shabir Ahmad Qadri, a Kashmiri, came to Kovalam, little did he know that he would feel a sense of belonging in another state. After working as a salesman in a shop run by another fellow Kashmiri, Syed Shabir went on to start his handicraft shop. In 1996, he constructed a house in Kovalam with the support of panchayat members and local people.
“Though born a Kashmiri, I see myself as a Keralite. People have accepted us as their own. Besides a ration card, I also own a voter identity card and have always exercised my voting rights. I’m eagerly waiting to cast my vote in the upcoming elections,” said Syed Shabir, who has been living in the state for the past 36 years.
The deep-rooted multiculturalism and exemplary education make Kerala one of the best places in the world, adds Syed, who is also the president of Kovalam Kashmiri Residents’ Welfare Society.Come December 8, over 22 Kashmiri families settled in Kovalam for more than 30 years will be casting their votes. While they actively engage in discussions about local body polls and promising candidates, they are discreet about their voting preferences.
Must help rekindle tourism
“The pandemic has dealt a massive blow to tourism. Many of us face difficulties in repaying our loans. There are more than 200 Kashmiri traders who sell handicrafts, jewellery and other exotic products near the beach. But the once-bustling tourist destination remains deserted. We are looking forward to the elections and hope that the tourism sector is revived. Our livelihoods depend on the same,” he adds.
Like Syed Shabir, there are other Kashmiris who have built their homes in the state and are gearing up to vote in the local body polls. Ghulam Mustafa Reshi, currently residing in Venganoor and running a handicraft shop in Kovalam for the past 23 years, said: “I have as many emotions for Thiruvananthapuram as I have for Kashmir. We have just one request to all candidates who visited us – help us revive our businesses as we’re facing financial crisis due to the decrease in the number of tourists.”
Focus on city projects
Settled in Kovalam and Manacaud, over 100 people from the Gujarati community is all set to exercise their franchise.
“More focus must be on the city’s developmental projects,” said Mayur Patel who has been in the capital for the past 42 years. Primarily into the lumber business, Mayur added that the community has suffered due to the pandemic and are concerned about their business.
Navin Shah, who has been in Kovalam for the past 26 years, has set his eyes on the BJP. “We will support good work and I believe that they’re doing well in many states,”