ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Clear Message from Kashmir

The virtual boycott of the parliamentary bypoll shows us the extent of disillusionment with the Indian state.

For long, Indians were made to believe that large election turnouts in the Kashmir Valley represent a true measure of the people’s mood. We looked at voter turnout without considering the number of people who boycotted elections. We were made to believe that despite being bludgeoned by brute power, Kashmiris would still come out and vote. The abysmally low turnout of 7.14% in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency on 9 April, and the violence on that day that led to the death of eight young protesters and injuries to around 200 others tells us the real story. It is a resoundingly clear statement that Kashmiris are disillusioned with India’s constitutional institutions.

We need to recognise that there are significant differences in election turnout in Kashmir for local bodies, assembly and parliamentary polls, with maximum votes recorded for local bodies and the lowest for parliamentary polls. This indicates the level of confidence Kashmiris have in these institutions and their political relevance. People voting in much larger numbers for local bodies reflects their desire to address everyday concerns. They vote in the assembly elections knowing that the state government can only mitigate the consequences of the devastation caused by decades-old repression without resolving the political crisis. Voting in parliamentary elections is different. For a large majority of Kashmiris, India’s Parliament lost its appeal in 1993 when it unanimously resolved to speak of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India and reiterated its claim on the territory held by Pakistan. At the same time, it ignored the military suppression of Kashmiris and their democratic demands. Neither the present nor past Indian governments have shown any appetite for serious political negotiations to resolve the political crisis in Kashmir. Having hollowed out constitutional autonomy, and boasted in Parliament of having done so in 1964, there are few takers for autonomy in Kashmir and, one might add, in India.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017

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