At the time of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir and even after that, when the Kashmir issue was taken to the United Nation, the government of India had agreed that the accession of the princely state is subject to the verdict of the people of J&K which would be taken as and when the atmosphere is congenial.
The congeniality of the atmosphere was put there in the wake of intrusion of tribals from across the border. With the passage of time, the Government of India has been taking a cue from the fact that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have exercised their faith in the accession of J&K with India “through ballot”.
The poll percentage in the election of the state legislature or 2014 Lok Sabha polls was all along good and if compared to other states of the republic, it would look to very good. New records were set as people thronged voting centres. Even the turmoil of yesteryears where the fatalities were substantial in number could not impact the voter turnout in the last parliamentary and assembly election.
However, this claim of India looks to have been nipped in the bud by the turnout in the recent by-poll of one of the two parliamentary constituencies. The 24×7 campaigning by all the mainstream political parties including the two in the government could only get seven per cent people to vote. Eight persons were killed by forces to ensure ‘peace’.
This is for the first time during last two and half decades of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir that the pro-independence or pro-Pakistan organisations got such an effective response to their poll boycott call. This milestone could only be achieved by using different methods to get out the people from participating in the elections.
One wonders how the republic of India shall now showcase this near decimal participation in the election process. How is New Delhi now going to counter the narrative of one section in the world who always believed that election was no alternative to the referendum. The question is what went wrong which brought a very good percentage of voter turnout in past to decimal levels.
The mainstream political parties and especially the two which are in the government need to ponder on the issue. The whole election process has raised many questions. Either the situation was not conducive which demonstrates the fact that the administration did not take required steps to maintain law and order and provide a conducive atmosphere for people to cast their vote. Or the mainstream politics has lost its grip on this part of the conflict zone. The buzz in the Valley is that the mainstream has lost relevance and faith in people. Is this the end of democratic processes in Kashmir?