Once again, I am in a fix. Should I vote, or should I not?
Through paid advertisements in local newspapers, the government urges me to wake up and vote as that would solve all my problems. One set of politicians says that it would change my destiny. Dissidents, on the other hand, tell me to stay away from polling booths.
What should I do?
The performance of ‘elected’ governments has left me disappointed. They have extended draconian laws to my state, diluted its autonomy, bartered away its honour and resources, and prostituted democracy.
When the armed forces ‘restored’ democracy in 1996 by herding people to polling booths, and Dr Farooq Abdullah became Chief Minister, he promised to take measures to get autonomy restored. He passed a resolution and forwarded a comprehensive document, but it was rejected to keep India `intact’.
Then came Mufti Muhammad Sayeed with his `Healing Touch’ policy which soon became his party’s philosophy – but the onslaught on Kashmiris continued. Around 40 probes were ordered during his tenure. None was taken to conclusion. Their findings are awaited to this day. Mufti ended up abandoning his Self Rule slogan too.
He had behaved like a separatist and almost hijacked the Hurriyat agenda, and was finally told to behave like an Indian.
Ghulam Nabi Azad proved no different. He too ordered around 44 probes, without results.
Omar Abdullah broke all records. First he abandoned his ‘revoke AFSPA’ demand. Then he was asked to forget about autonomy as well, and he has been a ‘good boy’ since.
I am also being told that elections would lead to the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. How? Politicians alone know. Nobody should oppose a democratic exercise just for the sake of it. But the Government of India, the Government of Pakistan and the international community have time and again made clear that elections in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir would have no bearing on the status of the conflict. When elections have not solved the problem for six decades, how can they lead to a resolution now when equations have changed the world over?
Resolving the Kashmir dispute is too big a task for politicians elected to construct drains and latrines. As mentioned above, they have failed on issues far less important, and the Government of India does not even revoke a universally-reviled law on their recommendation.
So, why should I vote for them?
But I can consider them if they rid me of stray dogs. But can they do that?
Dr Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah are all afraid of Maneka Gandhi who has so far managed to protect Kashmir’s stray dog population.
Some were culled last year, but the ‘operation’ was carried out clandestinely, at night, and then abandoned almost as soon as begun. Perhaps someone tipped Maneka off, and she made the state government fall in line.
How lucky Kashmir’s stray dogs are. They have a right to life, and people to enforce it. It is better being a dog in Kashmir than a human being.
According to municipal data, Srinagar alone has a stray dog population of over two lakh. The city, experts suggest, needs 5,000 dogs for scavenging. What ought to be done about the rest?
Officials privately admit that castrating them, as suggested by Maneka Gandhi, is a cumbersome process, and that the best option to have an optimal canine population would be to go for a cull.
On January 15, 2012, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) decided to poison 3000 stray dogs, but, for unknown reasons, the operation never went underway. On March 13 the same year, the Corporation announced to cull 1,00,000 stray dogs in the coming months, but canine numbers continue to grow, and human beings continue to die a painful death due to dog bites of which the SMHS Hospital alone registers an average of 4,000 cases every year.
For over two decades, animal rights activists have managed to foil the SMC’s bids to cull stray dogs. A journalist who agitated the matter repeatedly was shown a letter by Maneka Gandhi threatening the Corporation with dire consequences if it went ahead with its plans.
The state government has been crippled by someone living over one thousand miles away. Those who run the administration ought to hang their heads in shame.
The same individual had made Dr Abdullah ban the shahtoosh trade in the late 90s, throwing more than 5,00,000 people out of jobs.
If ‘elected representatives’ are unable even to rid Kashmir of its stray dogs, how can they change the destiny of its people? How can they get the AFSPA revoked? How can they get autonomy restored? Can they even dare to dream of resolving Kashmir?