Democracy on Display: Kashmir Bi-elections 2017
“The worst thing that can happen in a democracy-as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope”.
George Bernard Shaw summed-up the meaning of election very eloquently. To quote Shaw “An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.” Coming directly to the Bi election in Kashmir valley it seems Bernard Shah is quite relevant, the elections in Kashmir are held right from 1952 i.e. from constituent assembly to current parliamentary one. The rigged and manipulated elections of 1987 became the bedrock for the insurgency in the state and at the same time the people’s non-violent movement from 2008 to present era has shaped the politics in new directions. The political developments in the state from time to time have given shape to new trends like we witnessed in 2016, revolt and the emergence of new armed rebellion. The more recruits and peoples participation in funeral processions ends the fear among the people. There was a time in 90’s when the news of an encounter or crackdown was heard in any area, people would rush to other safe places, but now the brute force and suppression have ended that very fear and people now are used to it. Killings in Kashmir on daily basis have deeply affected the psyche of the people, the prime examples are the killings in the bi- election in central Kashmir. The trauma of horrible curfews and killings of 2016 are still haunting the people and may remain in the memories of the people for a pretty long time. Kashmir has rarely seen the democratic way of culture as boasted by their masters in New Delhi. The state from 1947 was always ruled under the shadow of a gun instead of democratic ideas and principles. Hillary Clinton one of the liberal voices in USA once remarked that, “The worst thing that can happen in a democracy-as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope”. The people in Kashmir have lost the hope in the name of Democracy. The nature of the state and its institutions from all fronts is anti-people and anti-Kashmir, be it legislature, executive and judiciary. All have played their respective role in shaping the dirty politics of the state. The state can’t spread democracy with a barrel of a gun argues the leading intellectual and social scientist Helen Thomas. However in case of Kashmir, in the name of democracy the state has used the Gun as a primary source which resulted in thousands of innocent Killings right from 1989.
The rigged and manipulated elections of 1987 became the bedrock for the insurgency in the state and at the same time the people’s non-violent movement from 2008 to present era has shaped the politics in new directions.
Benito Mussolini seems quite relevant here when he puts his stunning words on democracy, “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy”. On Sunday in Parliamentary bi-elections in Kashmir, mayhem was still to come as the ideals of democracy murdered 8 innocent people and injured hundreds. This day will be remembered as one of the bloodiest days in the democratic history of the country. Commenting on the Election Day, former CM cum clerk of the state Omer Abdullah tweeted, “From 26% in 2014 to 6.5% in 2017 who should we blame for the mess Kashmir is in? In another tweet he wrote, “Have contested 6 elections over 20 years & have never seen this level of violence in elections in Kashmir”.
If the PDP led coalition government is responsible for the present mess, then at the same time the leaders of both NC and other parties are not holy cows. Omer Abdullah perhaps has forgotten the role he played during the mass uprising of 2010, in which hundreds and thousands of civilians were brutally killed and injured. It would have been a good gesture had he made the forces accountable being the head of the state rather than making commissions and ordering probes without any results. These cases are either hushed up or the files rot in the government offices.
The political speeches of Omer Abdullah or his father Farooq Abdullah in support of the stone-pelters are nothing, but it is a game played by every political party as they are all players of a one team playing together least bothering about the good of the people. As we have seen in the past how PDP used to call themselves as “Messiah” of the people. On the other hand the PDP’s Coalition with BJP has not only continued the legacy of previous governments, but it shaped the record of killing and injuring hundreds and thousands under the aegis of unlawful AFSPA. Minors in hundreds were logged in jails by slapping draconian PSA and forces were giving free hand to deal with the protests. Had the present government made the forces accountable and punish the culprits accordingly, situation would have been totally different but alas nothing was done from the part of the state government. The central government from has always justified the innocent killings as part of their national policy.
The 2017 bi- parliamentary election are supposed to be the lowest in the history of Kashmir under the Indian rule. It is clear when the two main political parties PDP and NC had low key election campaigning and avoided getting so close with the people, because they know the anger of 2016 is very much present. However, the workers were invited to closed doors and secured spaces for political interactions. The policy makers in the union government were expecting 10 percent plus and the optimists never crossed twenty, but the EVMs in the end stunned everyone by staying at 7.14percent. Chief Election officer Shantamanu said that “today was not a good day.” As the central Kashmir witnessed massive clashes and bloodshed, at the same time he also said it is a big challenge to conduct the polls in South Kashmir parliament segment as the roots of the 2016 uprising and revolt are still present. Additionally, the killings of the innocents on Election Day further worsened the situation in the state. The brother of the CM Mehbooba Mufti, Tassaduq Mufti candidate for parliamentary seat from south Kashmir even went the extend to postpone the Election, to quote him, “The situation is not conducive for polls,” Tassaduq insisted in his press conference. “You cannot force people to vote and you cannot force people not to vote.” Democracy, he said, should not lead to the killing of people.
In conclusion, the low turnout of the masses in the present ongoing bi- parliamentary elections has conveyed a clear message to those forces and mainstream political parties that there is death of Indian narrative. The state has entered in a critical stage where New Delhi has lost the battle and false propaganda of blaming Pakistan for every act of violence and protests is no more acceptable to the people of the state. The need of the hour is to read the graffiti on the walls. In the words of Mridu Rai professor of history at Presidency University, “Kashmiris have spoken time and again: “Hum Kya Chahtey? Aazadi.”
Author is a doctorate candidate at department of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh and has a keen interest in South Asian Politics, Peace and conflict studies. His research topic includes “Political Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir”. He can be reached at Ahanger.firstname.lastname@example.org. His twitter handle is @javid786ahanger
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.