KYARI founder Arhan Bagati casts vote in Srinagar
KYARI founder Arhan Bagati casts vote in Srinagar

As the political landscape in the Kashmir Valley undergoes a significant shift, the bustling streets of Srinagar witnessed a momentous occasion on Monday as the polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency commenced. The anticipating voters queued up outside polling stations across the region, from the historic old city area of Srinagar to the picturesque locales of Pulwama, Kangan, Ganderbal, Budgam, and Pampore. Voters turned out in large numbers, signaling a renewed sense of democratic fervor in the valley.

The polling saw enthusiastic participation from voters across various demographics. With elaborate security arrangements in place, including the deployment of a large number of security forces, voters cast their ballots without fear or apprehension. Smiling voters exchanged greetings with troopers stationed at polling stations.

According to data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI), during the first two hours since voting commenced at 7 a.m., an overall voter turnout of 5.07 percent was recorded. By 5PM, 35.75 percent voter turnout was recorded, with highest turnout in Kangan (ST) at 55.55 percent.

Amid this electoral buzz, a strong voice of the youth in Kashmir, Arhan Bagati, who hails from a respected Kashmiri Pandit lineage, cast his vote in Srinagar. Arhan, who is the founder of Srinagar-based research institute KYARI, appealed to the voters to show up in huge numbers to exercise their constitutional rights.

"I request everyone to come out and cast their votes. This is the world's largest democracy and it will only be beneficial if people come out in large numbers to vote. This is our constitutional right and people should utilise it. This is an important election, as there have been some significant developments and this is the first election since. I appeal to the youth, particularly, to come out and vote," Bagati told International Business Times.

KYARI founder Arhan Bagati casts vote in Srinagar
KYARI founder Arhan Bagati in queue to cast his vote in Srinagar

Who is Arhan Bagati?

Arhan's journey from the bustling streets of Delhi to the serene landscapes of Srinagar embodies a quest for identity and purpose. His recent accolade of securing acceptance letters from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia for a Master's in Public Policy underscores his academic prowess and commitment to effecting meaningful change.

"Through a Master's in Public Policy, I now look to take forward the work that I have been carrying out during the past 2.5 years. I hope my achievements send a powerful message that we, the youth of JK, are not mere participants but leaders in the global conversation on social and political change," he said.

After completing his International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), Arhan pursued a Liberal Arts education at Pomona College in the United States, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in Politics, specializing in Comparative Politics, and Asian Studies, with a focus on India.

Social Impact Worker Arhan Bagati Takes the Helm in Srinagar's Bagh-e-Mehtab Area
Social Impact Worker Arhan Bagati Takes the Helm in Srinagar's Bagh-e-Mehtab Area

Arhan's notable achievements include becoming the world's youngest and India's first Deputy Chef de Mission of the Indian Paralympic Contingent at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. Additionally, he co-hosted the inaugural 'Kumaon Literary Festival' in the Valley in 2022, showcasing his commitment to promoting cultural exchange and literary endeavors in the region.

In his role as the Awareness and Impact Ambassador of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), Arhan has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about para sports and advocate for inclusivity. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Ceremonial Committee and Medal Ceremony Committee of the World Shooting Para Sports (WSPS) World Cup held in New Delhi.

Arhan's decision to return to his ancestral home in Srinagar amidst the backdrop of political upheaval speaks volumes about his dedication to reconnecting with his roots and contributing to the socio-political fabric of Kashmir. Arhan remains steadfast in his mission to advocate for positive change and empower the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to become leaders in the global discourse on social and political transformation.