Intro: Not intimidated by separatist call, people came out in large numbers to vote, a characteristic that was missing in elections for the past two decades
After the fifteen constituencies of Jammu-Kashmir voted an encouraging 71 percent in the first phase on 25 November, the people of Jammu Kashmir received kudos from all over world. For India, it helped in dismantling many wrong perceptions and misinformation about the state- the political influence of the separatists and the support they enjoy among J&K masses was out in open.
In the second phase of elections on 2 December, eighteen constituencies of Jammu-Kashmir have voted close to 72.1 per cent. This time the turnout crossed the record set up by the first phase. Important is to note that out of all eighteen constituencies, nine belonged to Kashmir Valley region and remaining nine fall in the Jammu region. Going by the implication of the high voter turnout, the second phase is more important as this time despite the fact the separatists/Pakistani terrorists left no stone turned to intimidate the voters, the turnout in this phase have broken all the previous records of voting percentage.
Five districts, namely, Reasi (3 constituencies/Jammu), Udahmpur (3 constituencies/Jammu), Poonchh (3 constituencies/Jammu), Kupwara (5 constituencies/Kashmir), and Kulgam (4 constituencies/Kashmir) voted in the second phase on 2 December. These eighteen constituencies were going to elections after the Pakistan sponsored terrorists and separatists worked hard to induce fear among people to stop them from participating in the electoral process. During the window between the first phase and second phase, the terrorists have killed two Panchayat Sarpanches and fired a grenade at Lal Chauk of Srinagar, all to intimidate voters. Apart from this, many attempts were made by Pakistani terrorists to cross Line of control with the aim of derailing the democratic process of voting.
Even on the day of voting, five Pakistani terrorists were killed in a shootout in Nowgam sector near the line of Control (LoC), in the frontier district of Kupwara, on 2 December. All the five constituencies of this district were witnessing heavy voter turnout in second phase of polling.
The killing of Sarpanches is the proof of the level of desperation among the enemy of democracy to intimidate the electoral process. Sarpanches of the Panchayat, the torch bearers of democracy have been vulnerable to the anger of separatists/terrorists for long.
High voter turnout after the killing of Sarpanches indicate that separatist’s effort to terrorize people by killing their representative have boomeranged on them. People have analysed well that the killers of their representatives can never be their well-wishers. This time, the ballot was used as a weapon against separatists.
Apart from the slap on the face of the separatists, these elections are putting a questions mark on the decentralising politics in the name of so called autonomy of using Article 370. People in Jammu-Kashmir are very enthusiastic to participate in the elections under the Election Commission of India and under the security of the Indian forces. Message is clear, even if imprudent NC, PDP and Congress pretend not seeing it, in future, a discussion on the article 370 will make people understand its effect and how it has been misused by secessionists all these years.
For a change, similar to the first phase, the youth turned to vote in large number with the politics of development in mind. False propagandas are today not seeing the light of the day—none of the interviewed voter made even a slightest reference to the politics of Article 370 and AFSPA during this election.
Arvind (The writer is a researcher at J&K Study Centre, New Delhi)