Ballot: Boycott:: 20:80

Kashmir Magazine

The Narendra Modi led government harping on the rhetorical Kashmir centric agenda in the ongoing parliamentary elections might find takers in other states of the country over it’s claim on curtailing the spreading wings of militancy and fresh militant recruitments in Kashmir but the low turnout in valley’s three parliamentary constituencies particularly the Anantnag parliamentary constituency comprising four South Kashmir districts is an indication of the grass support for the militancy and resistance struggle in Kashmir and outright denial of the people of Kashmir to endorse the ongoing pro-active policy of Modi government on Kashmir . Though the overall 34% turn out in Baramulla parliamentary constituency comprising three North Kashmir districts-Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore could have been satisfying despite dismal turn out in majority of the assembly segments in Baramulla and Bandipora districts but the dismal turn out of Just 14% in Srinagar parliamentary constituency comprising three central Kashmir districts-Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam was a big blow to the two largest mainstream parties National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party which had won most of the assembly constituencies in the last assembly elections . The unprecedented boycott bringing down poll percentage to just over 8% in four South Kashmir districts was a severe blow to the Mehbooba Mufti headed Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) which had won most of the assembly constituencies in all the four districts in last assembly elections.

In the three phased election for Anantnag parliamentary seat comprising four south Kashmir districts, the killing of the political workers including the BJP’s district vice President Anantnag Gul Mohammad Mir in Verinag area of the district a day before polling in Pulwama and Shopian districts in the final phase of the three phase polling and the attacks on polling booths on the day of polling in twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian were clear indications of the failure of the security management for the last round of parliamentary elections in South Kashmir. The security atmosphere has become so much hostile that most of the polling stations had to clubbed and changed into cluster zones but the decision implemented for security of the polling staff proved counterproductive as it reduced the interest of the voters who found it physically inconvenient to travel longer distances to reach the clubbed polling stations for casting their votes. Ironically more than 300 polling booths had to be closed without a single vote being cast by the evening on the polling day in different parts of Kashmir valley that went to polls in different phases on different days. Attempts to put in public domain an aggregate turn out of the Baramulla and Udhampur parliamentary constituency in the first phase of polling and the Anantnag and Leh Parliamentary constituencies in the fifth phase of polling has failed election commission to paint a picture of moderate poll participation in Kashmir valley as the media reports that went viral on social networking sites were narrating the tale of the real mood of the people of Kashmir valley. As overall poll percentage of just 20% in Kashmir valley’s all the three parliamentary constituencies is a clear indication of the total disconnect of the 80% valley population with the politics of ballot .

The unprecedented boycott by 80% valleyites shows that neither the intensified anti-militancy operations of Modi government nor the conduct of urban local bodies and panchayats could restore the faith of people in the working of law enforcement agencies and the power of ballot respectively. So a hostile atmosphere inherited by the governor’s administration from previous Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP coalition government is not heading to any dead end and the unprecedented boycott by 80% valley population shows the governor administration’s failure to restore the faith of people in the working of the justice delivery system and also the functioning of the basic public services beyond doubt. In the developing Kashmir scenario even naives can understand that the proactive policy against the militants in Kashmir valley is taking central government far away from its battle of wining the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir.

Having seen 160 civilian deaths in the year 2018 rated as the bloodiest year in Kashmir, the reasons for the disconnect of the 80% of Valley population with the ballot are though obvious but yet again Prime Minister Narendra Modi says “ hitting touch to militants and healing touch to civilians” . Perhaps Prime Minister has no inputs about the plight of the families of the thousands of innocent youths blinded and maimed during last two years of public unrest in Kashmir valley .

Clearly, worsening security situation coupled with a rise in violence has made civilians wary of reposing trust in a system which has taken away from them the right to protest, the right to travel, and the right to affiliate with a particular political ideology as government in one of its latest orders warns people of having any affiliation with the separatist parties Jamat-e- Islami and JKLF banned by it recently. Apprehensions of separatist political ideology aggravating the situation do not give government the liberty to encroach upon the basic rights of the people. Even those propagating separatist ideologies can’t be denied the rights given to other citizens by the constitution of Jammu & Kashmir and as well as the Constitution of India. The provocative response of the central government to Pulwama attack including the ban on civilian traffic twice a week on Kashmir highway and ban on separatist parties like Jamat-e-Islamic and JKLF did not motivate people to come out to vote enthusiastically but to respond violently to the actions of electioneering including campaigning by the contesting mainstream political parties on the ground. So even naives can understand that the response of the people shows their outright denial to endorse Narendra Modi government’s pro-active policy vis-à-vis the challenges of militancy, street protests and restoration of popular rule in Jammu & Kashmir state.

Modi’s assertions on BJP’s poll promises over abrogation of Article 370 guaranteeing special status to Jammu & Kashmir state and repealing of Article 35-A the law governing basic rights of residency to the people of Jammu and Kashmir are viewed as planed attempts to change religious demography of muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir state. Making Kashmir an issue of war and peace between India and Pakistan won’t take any central government closer to restoration of peace and order in Jammu & Kashmir state. In the Vajpayee era the opening of travel and trade routes between the divided parts of Jammu & Kashmir saw Kashmir returning to normalcy but in Modi era the suspension of travel and trade routes is seeing people of Kashmir turning away from the polling booths. Eighty percent of the population turning away from polling booths amid threats to scrap article 370 and article 35 A from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top BJP leaders paints the real picture of Kashmir and the situation developing in the aftermath of parliamentary elections won’t go Modi way but anti-Modi way. Modi government’s pro-active Kashmir policy is deepening the alienation that prompts youth to join militants ranks and throng encounter sites and consequently the space for mainstream politics propagating the politics of ballot is shrinking day after day.  

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