The Election Commission of India’s decision to cancel the by-poll for Anantnag Parliamentary constituency, earlier rescheduled for May 25, has come as a realisation of the ground realities, though belatedly.
The decision has been taken on a gory day when assailants shot dead five policemen and two bank guards traveling in a van after dispensing cash in Damhal Hanjipora area of Kulgam, one of the volatile areas where conduct of polls could have been another chapter of death and destruction.
Nevertheless, the thoughtless decision to announce a rescheduled date for the by-poll after the mayhem caused on April 9 when 8 anti-poll protesters were gunned by the trigger-happy security personnel during the by-poll for Srinagar constituency will remain as a reminder of ECI’s belligerent attitude towards Kashmir.
During this period a lot of violence took place in the Valley, which can be directly attributed to the poll announcement. Suspected militants created a reign of terror in the poll bound areas and killed at least three political activists including the district president of the ruling People’s Democratic Party in Pulwama.
The heinous crimes of targeting unarmed civilians merely on the basis of their political outlook cannot be condoned but it is equally reprehensible that the ECI sought a lot of time until calling it quits. During this crucial span a lot of bloodletting that could have been avoided, took place.
Cancellation of elections is the most appropriate decision that has been taken in a prolonged period of mindless handling of situation in Kashmir. We have been advocating it in this column space purely on the basis of explosive ground situation in south Kashmir region. On April 10, a day after blood-soaked elections in Srinagar and Budgam, the ruling PDP’s candidate Tasaduq Mufti had pleaded deferment of the elections. He had, however, simultaneously expressed his helplessness in remaining in the fray if the ECI went through its schedule.
The state government through all possible channels made it clear to the ECI that holding elections was not serving any purpose.
This retreat can earn the ECI bouquets as well as brickbats. The overzealous nationalists across India, who have been showing no qualms in spewing venom against the people of Kashmir may castigate the decision because they are always in search of such opportunities but their mind-set should not prevail. This decision reflects the fair understanding of the ground situation and even if the separatists in
Kashmir celebrate the deferment as their own victory so be it. The primary concern must be the safeguard of human lives and if this decision ensures this essential factor, the entire criticism of the decision would pale into insignificance.
The important lesson from the poll deferment is the realization of ground situation. It is an honest admission that the situation is not altogether conducive. The natural consequence of this understanding is should be taken to the next level. That next level is the necessity of engagement with the dissent element in Kashmir. The sooner this realization comes, the better it would be. Exhibition of obstinacy on this count would always be self-defeating and suicidal.