What the By Polls and their Aftermath tell us about Kashmir?

By Arif Khan

Thematic scrutiny of electoral system in a democracy would entail, at least, a conversation on the existential conditions of the state and the purposes of government as advocated by different political scientists. While dealing with state and government, a sort of scholastic vibes of light would be directed to cast upon the election system. The light so cast is anticipated to take us to two discrete sides of whether our system could really address problems related to elections or take into account the sociological aspect of our societies and bring out novel approaches; and if our existing rules and norms meet electioneering processes, especially in Kashmir.
Election is the paid culmination of the existence of a particular society in the form of ‘state’ that is governed, ruled, and managed by some individuals who are empowered by the electorates as ‘government’. It is this body of individuals called ‘government’ that enforce common rules that are acceptable to the society as a mechanism of dispensing the best interest of all.
Criminalisation of politics and politicisation of criminals are not only the features in our political structure but become basis for entire political gimmicks. Stories of capturing, rigging, bogus voting, impersonation, misuse of religions, caste and tribal identities, and various other corrupt practises made the greatest democracy a failure.
Talking about the fragmented political structure of the valley, going through by-polling right now. The present by-poll has seen a dramatic change: it has produced startling results in valley. On average, 6.5 per cent of people vote in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by polls. This is remarkable in the electoral history of Kashmir. The poll offers no simple fixes but cobweb of misgivings through current political process in which people of Kashmiri completely reject the political representation, which could move towards resolution or any peace building process.
No vote was polled at 27 out of 38 polling stations during re-polls in various constituencies of central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Re-polling in 38 polling stations in Srinagar LS constituency, the final poll percentage was recorded 2%..
Voting was marred by clashes, protests and violence between  the Armed forces and civilians resulting in the killing of eight civilians and many injured. Internet services were barred immediately. This election has demonstrated the impact of last summer’s uprising, in which number of civilians were killed and many injured,  receiving both pellet and bullet injuries.
The most significant question is why has this exceptional violence taken place during an election boycott? The simple answer is that new generation of Kashmiri Youth, born and brought up in the conflict of the nineties of the last century are in no mood to compromise.
The ruling PDP’s party leader and in-charge of the Srinagar constituency, Imran Ansari, in a press conference said that he won’t deny the voting percentage was low but said there are obvious reasons why this was happening. “We have had a turbulent year last year in which scores of young boys died on the streets. This is not a win-win situation for anyone. No party can say that I won or whatever,” he said.
These alarming figures are clear indicative for the both State as well as the Central government, who earlier revealed that only handful Kashmiris are protesting and rest of these are quiescent. This by- poll should open their eyes. Kashmiri youth are now in no mood to compromise. The intricate and homogenizing constraints of ideology and ‘nationalism’ usually applied in analysing the Kashmir conflict are clearly at variance with the plural realities and diverse political demands of the region’s various communities, ranging from affirmative discrimination to more autonomy, separate constitutional status within India or Pakistan, and outright secession.
The Kashmir conflict now revolves around many complex, and polygonal issues, emanating from equally complex causes. Any hope for creating critical political opportunities that will allow the parties to explore ways to find a just, viable, and lasting solution to the conflict depends on deeper insight into these complexities. But now, the engine of change ‘common people’ responded with this minuscule percentage of voting. This is aclear cut indication for the political stakeholders to expose their futile attempt for peace building process. This is an indication of the people’s disenchantment with these elections and political leaders.

—The author is a research scholar at the Department of History and Culture, Jamia Milllia Islamia. He can be reached at karif2172@gmail.com