At 7.14%, Srinagar records lowest-ever turnout
Srinagar: The long-held claim that participation of Kashmiris in elections is their endorsement of Indian sovereignty over the state suffered a major blow on Sunday with the voting turnout halted at the lowest ever, 7.14 percent in Srinagar parliamentary constituency, where nearly 1.3 million people were eligible to vote.
This time around there was unprecedented public resistance to the conduct of the elections, although thousands of police, paramilitary troopers and army soldiers had been deployed to secure the atmosphere for elections. The premises of even a small polling station were guarded, on an average, by about a dozen forces inside.
Eight Kashmiri civilians, protesting against elections and in several instances attacking polling stations with stones, were shot dead by government forces in Budgam and Ganderbal. These districts have, by and large, been traditionally inclined towards voting.
More than 70 people were injured, many of them hit with bullets and pellets. Police said about a 100 government forces personnel were also injured in clashes.
Besides Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal are the other districts that constitute Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. Budgam, which is contiguous with Pulwama district that was at the centre of last year’s anti-India uprising, witnessed much of the poll-day bloodshed apparently because three people were killed recently by government forces when they tried to come to rescue of a besieged militant in Chadoora area of the district.
Over all, this is the lowest voter turnout in Srinagar seat since 1996 when elections were held after a hiatus of six years following the eruption of anti-India insurgency.
What preceded the by election for Srinagar seat can probably explain why the voting-is-referendum-for-Indian-rule narrative has taken a beating.
First, the spill-over rage from last year’s uprising has not been bottled up despite thousands of arrests. Second, the surging rage over the killing of unarmed people who have been braving bullets during gunfights to rescue militants has not let the momentum of last year’s uprising die down completely. Third, the BJP-ruled New Delhi and PDP-BJP coalition in the state have only hardened the stance towards militants and resistance leaders.
That is why, even some areas in Srinagar city, where PDP appeared to have gained ground or where National Conference seemed to be perpetually entrenched, did not vote this time.
New Delhi always projects elections in Kashmir as endorsement of its rule, especially when Pakistan brings up United Nations resolutions calling for holding a plebiscite in Kashmir.
Today’s turnout will cast a shadow over Anantnag constituency where voting is scheduled on Wednesday. The four districts of the Anantnag seat—Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag—were at the centre of last year’s uprising. These areas have witnessed several attacks on elections rallies or pro-India politicians during the past month. The majority of the small election rallies and workers’ conventions of pro-India parties were confined to government buildings.
LS polls in SrinagarYear Percentage
1980 no polls
1989 no polls