STORY: For the first time in her life, Asha, a street cleaner in the Indian city of Jammu, will be allowed to cast her vote in
upcoming local elections.
She's got no doubts who for.
She plans to reward Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, which has scrapped Kashmir's decades-old special status.
That denied rights to many Hindu communities not considered indigenous to the region - about a million people.
Many marginalized groups will gain full citizenship for the first time.
Asha's family, originally from Punjab, were stuck in menial work. But her children are training to be teachers.
“We got the domicile certificate so that the children could get better education and job opportunities like the privileged ones get. Our children do not wish to sweep the street. We did this job but our children don’t want to do the same thing.”
Modi's Hindu nationalist party is counting on such votes as it pushes to take control of India's part of Kashmir.
Reuters spoke to 36 people who now enjoy full citizenship. All planned to vote for the BJP.
Pakistan has claimed Kashmir since the partition of India in 1947 and the neighbors have fought two wars over it.
Jammu and Kashmir is divided in two. Jammu has just over a million inhabitants, about 62% of whom are Hindu.
Kashmir Valley has 6.7 million, about 97% of them Muslim.
For Muslims, used to being governed by Muslim chief ministers, the BJP is upending decades of autonomy and privilege to champion the rights of the Hindu majority over minority groups.
“See, the elections do not concern us. We do not get any benefits, even if a minister comes here. I am happy with the way things are at the moment. I am fine with the Governor's rule.”
A BJP majority in Kashmir would be a seismic shift.
Even talk of a strong showing underlines how Modi has trampled on old taboos to push his agenda in every corner of India.