The customary arrest of pro-freedom leaders began soon after the bugle for Assembly polls was sounded. It has now reached a level where even the youth released after years of incarceration have been put under arbitrary imprisonment.
While elections are part of a genuine democracy, so are the voices that campaign against it. Democratic governments all over the world allow dissenting voices a space to flourish. The sign of healthy democracies in the world is the amount of dissent they allow. But the moment elections are announced in Kashmir, the state government’s standard response is arrests, persecution and reinforcing the already choking numbers of troopers.
While all political parties, some of whom might soon be part of a government, advocate resolution of Kashmir issue through peaceful means, they are silent on these arrests. The pro-India parties either tacitly or explicitly support the arrests, depending on whether they are in power or out of it. What does a dialogue mean when the people with whom it would be held eventually spend most part of their lives in jails or under house arrests?
Ahead of assembly elections, the state has so far arrested more than 500 people, calling them as pre-emptive and necessary for free polls in Kashmir. What these arrests do not hide is the nature of the state working in Kashmir—draconian and repressive. The massive crackdown on pro-freedom leadership strengthens the argument that the Indian state is interested in only one thing, that is, control by any means. That is why the elections, and the arrests, are supplemented by deploying 50,000 more troops in a place internationally recognised as the most militarised region on earth.
Many a pro-India politicians argue that democracy was never allowed to flourish in Kashmir. But little do they realise that they have been the biggest hurdle in democracy taking root in Kashmir. From Sheikh Abdullah to Mufti Sayeed, the dissent has been brutally crushed. And if we are to identify a common element between two radically different politicians as Sheikh and Mufti, Public Safety Act comes to the mind first.
The repressive measures ahead of elections, in addition to subversion by other means such as paying people to fight elections and tactical rigging, also show the hollowness of what New Delhi and pro-India Kashmiri politicians call the “democratic verdict.” By keeping the people who want to campaign against polls in jails, one can safely assume that any high voter turnout is a bubble that exists as long as dissent is crushed by the jackboot.