Kashmir’s yearning for Democracy - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Kashmir’s yearning for Democracy

May 24, 2024 09:32 PM IST

Having witnessed the sense of trust shown by the Kashmiris in democracy, it shall be pertinent for New Delhi to reinforce this success.

The message coming out of Kashmir valley over the last two phases of the ongoing general elections in the country has been encouraging. Srinagar recorded 38% voter turnout during the May 13 polling, the highest in the constituency since the 1996 general elections, when 41% of voters exercised their franchise.

Kashmir, India - May. 13, 2024: Voters queue up to cast their votes at a polling station during the fourth phase of voting in Lok Sabha elections in Pulwama district,on 13 May 2024.(Photo By Waseem Andrabi /Hindustan Times)-- PREMIUM
Kashmir, India - May. 13, 2024: Voters queue up to cast their votes at a polling station during the fourth phase of voting in Lok Sabha elections in Pulwama district,on 13 May 2024.(Photo By Waseem Andrabi /Hindustan Times)--

In Baramulla, during the May 20 round of polls, as per the Election Commission of India (ECI), the turnout stood at over 56%, the highest since 1984.

Significantly, for the first time in three decades, the towns of Sopore, Rafiabad and Baramulla — separatist bastions that always heeded election boycotts in the past – kept a date with polling, registering a sound voter turnout of approximately over 40%. In 2019, the Sopore assembly segment in the Baramulla parliamentary constituency had a turnout of 4.3%, and the Baramulla assembly segment was 16%.

The ECI attributed the higher voter turnout to improved security in the region and hope for a better future, with no boycott calls recorded. Other reasons for the higher turnout range from Kashmiri’s eagerness to voice their concerns through the ballot to the crucial issue of identity.

Media reports from the constituencies said basic issues of civic concerns and unemployment provided the overall context for citizens coming out to vote in larger numbers.

It goes without saying that the improved security situation and shrinking traction for separatist voices played a major role in encouraging the message for democracy. It deserves a mention here that even the ardent followers of the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir voiced opinion in favour of the democratic process, notwithstanding the modus vivendi they envisage. Seemingly, the outfit too views its future within the ambit of India’s Constitution.

By turning out to vote in numbers more than before, Kashmiris seem to be sending out a message: They aspire to move on from the rule of the executive that has been the order since Article 370 was abrogated in August 2019.

Kashmiris, clearly and notwithstanding the turbulent times they have been through, yearns for democracy.

Democracy for Kashmiris, as they perceive, and correctly so, can manifest only if they have representatives who can voice their concerns in Parliament. The executive or the “babu” regime, as the locals refer to, has been at the root of the sense of alienation of the locals.

The accessibility factor of a political representative is obviously preferred over the inaccessible executive. It is all about democratic empowerment and the same is warranted to be upheld by the policy makers in New Delhi.

Political interpretations of the voting pattern are conflicting and at variance, depending upon affiliations. However, statesmanship calls for looking beyond such myopic simplifications. The aspect that should not be lost, lies in the larger and intangible message of the democratic choice that people have exercised.

The message is about the core desire of the population, which is neither about separatism nor influenced by the so-called Pakistan factor. Our tendency to view Kashmir through the prism of Pakistan or terror requires to be jettisoned. For long, our tendency to externalise challenges has distracted us from introspecting.

In strengthening inclusive democracy, there is a potential to render separatism, terrorism or even the Pakistan factor vis-a-vis Kashmir, irrelevant.

Having witnessed the sense of trust shown by the Kashmiris in democracy, it should be pertinent for New Delhi to reinforce this success. The aspiration of the present generation who came out and voted varies from that of their predecessors and provides us with an opportunity that can only be met by genuine fructification of democracy.

In the eventuality of this gullible section getting disillusioned, the fallouts would be unbearable, pushing Kashmir back to the brink again. There are lessons to be drawn from the disillusionment that had set in among Kashmiris after the 1987 elections.

The ongoing general elections need to be viewed as a democratic journey with the potential to enhance its scope. In Lok Sabha, the voice of members representing Kashmir should not get lost in the majoritarian cacophony.

The assembly elections should be the next milestone, as per the directives of the Supreme Court. It is further noted that democratic percolation to the grassroots can make every Kashmiri a stakeholder in building the future of the land and its people. In Kashmir, the election to rural and urban local bodies has always enthused inclusive participation and is crucial to be taken into account.

The ‘demos’ in democracy is about people. Making the average Kashmiri relevant will go a long way in isolating unwanted agencies of terror, separatism and of course the Pakistan factor. The aspired dignity of peoples’ identity can manifest only if the people are heard, their expressions recognised and their aspirations fulfilled. The message coming out of the sound voter turnout in the Valley is the harbinger of an idea whose time has come - the idea to shift our perspectives from Kashmir, the real estate, to Kashmiris, the people.

Colonel Shashank Ranjan is a retired Infantry officer who has served extensively in Jammu and Kashmir while operating in counter-insurgency environment. He currently teaches in OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana

Get World Cup ready with Crick-it! From live scores to match stats, catch all the action here. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, June 16, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On