A neutered nation has once again shown that it remains yet capable of defiance even if it be in the form of passive resistance. The silent verdict of the Kashmiri masses is quite unambiguous. If democracy were really what it is purported to be it would be accepted that the Kashmiri people have given their mandate against India, the majority of them having clearly rejected its version of democracy by not casting their vote. This decision clearly implies that none of the choices proffered have been acceptable to them. The people of Kashmir have not bothered even to use the NOTA option as suggested by some ‘leaders’ and ‘intellectuals’ thereby not only rejecting the choices offered but the offer of choice itself and by doing so they have effectively trashed India’s claim of the Kashmir issue being something that concerns only a misguided minority amongst them.
The rejection of the electoral process by nearly 75 per cent of the electorate, the clear cut majority that is, is a referendum in itself. There have been poll boycotts previously also but what makes the boycott this time around much more significant is that by no means can it be claimed that the boycott has been due to any sort of coercion. The rebel guns have fallen silent long back. The situation in Kashmir is completely under control so far as the authorities are concerned and those who flaunt their allegiance to the mainstream parties do not have to do so in any concealed manner. There indeed was a time when any show of allegiance to the mainstream would be unthinkable because of the threat perception but that period has long since past. Supporters and lackeys of various mainstream parties nowadays are full of belligerence if anything. It would indeed be a vile calumny to claim that there is any sort of threat perception by the common man in these times which would stop him from voting. Of course there were calls for boycott from the various separatist leaders and parties but almost all of them having long back had the bite taken out of them, the calls were more in the nature of an appeal without even an iota of any sort of threat perception attributable to them. And yet the people of Kashmir rejected the charade of elections in a manner that was almost spontaneous and to the extent that must have probably come as a surprise to even those who gave the calls.
Of course the elections were carried out ‘successfully’ as the authorities would say but what, one might ask, is the measure of success of an election? Theoretically, even if a single vote is cast and that too by the candidate himself, provided that he is fighting from a constituency where he himself happens to be one of the voters, by all definitions this single vote cast would mean that the elections were successfully conducted and a candidate elected as well! So no matter how low the voter turnout, elections will be ‘successful’ and someone or the other will manage to get ‘elected’. The question however remains as to how representative of the people this ‘successful’ election or for that matter the ‘successful’ candidate would be! And conversely how democratic would rejecting the rejection by the majority be? These are questions that analysts and intellectuals of India really need to ponder.
The ‘chosen’ representatives, whatever party they may belong to, can by no means claim to be the representatives of the people after having been rejected summarily by a majority and that too with a pretty wide margin. And yes this argument does not even touch the issue of fairness of the conducted election or challenge official statistics, even though both these issues are debatable, considering past precedence. What makes this rejection even more remarkable is the fact that it has come even when the morale of the masses is at the lowest of lows with their leadership having long been either rendered impotent or neutralized and even in at least some cases ‘turned.’ Even the fact that people are largely disillusioned with the separatist leadership which is bogged down in petty squabbles as also the support from across has mostly dried up has not been able to sway the masses in the direction of polling booths. The few that have cast their vote have done it more out of gullibility rather than any sort of conviction, voting not for peace or any sort of ideology but for the hope that exercising their vote might get them jobs as countless of these voters have been expressing to the media. This makes even the claimed percentage an inveigled percentage at best. Thus while there was no coercion in the rejection of the electoral process the coercion was definitely there in making those who participated in the polling to do so. For coercion does not necessarily have to involve a threat, it can take more subtle forms like that of enticement for which even a mere promise is usually sufficient.