The killing of innocent youth, arrests and repression make the entire electoral process appear farce

Democracy through blood and terror
The killing of a youth by the trigger-happy CRPF men in Nawakadal area of Srinagar onthe day of polling for the Srinagar constituency of the Lok Sabha, most condemnable as it is, betrays the ruling coalition’s frustration caused due to the boycott of the election by a large number of electorate in the Valley. The manner in which 26-year old Bashir Ahmad Bhat was shot at makes it a clear case of cold-blooded murder. The firing by the CRPF men after the polling was over was both unprovoked and unjustified and calls for a high level independent probe followed by stringent punishment to those found guilty. The judicial inquiry ordered by the State government is merely an eye-wash, as the past experience of such probes has shown.

During the past over one month the entire Valley has been converted into a garrison with strong presence of the armed forces in every nook and corner of Kashmir. Despite the large-scale arrests and detentions of the separatist leaders, the polling percentage in the two constituencies of Srinagar and Anantnag has been very poor. Clearly a much larger number of electorate have responded positively to the separatist outfits call for boycott. That only shows the extent of the people’s alienation as well as anger due to the failure of the Indian state to respect their urges and aspirations by involving them in a process of unconditional and meaningful dialogue.

The experience of the elections since 1996, when the election to Lok Sabah was first held after the onset of insurgency clearly shows that while people are keen to join any genuine democratic process for electing the people’s representatives and government, they feel that without resolving the basic problem any such electoral exercise will be meaningless. With the boycott of polls by a very large number of electorate and the very conduct of such elections under the shadow of gun will make any such exercise a farce. The golden opportunity of initiating a process of meaningful dialogue with the leaders representing the estranged population was then missed and New Delhi unimaginatively hustled through the electoral exercise which in no way reflected the will of the people. Even 18 years after New Delhi has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the people. Such non-inclusive polls and the repression let loose on the people, with grave human rights abuses, have only resulted in the further alienation of the people. The elected governments without the support of the vast majority of the people, only develop vested interests to perpetuate uncertainty and subvert any move for a credible dialogue for finding a just and democratic solution to the problem.

Much of the popular anger is due to the presence of a very large number of armed forces in the civilian areas, grave violation of human rights and failure of those at the helm to prevent them, the culture of immunity enjoyed by the security forces under the draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) failure of the justice system, curbs on the people’s movement and activities and the repressive measures adopted to silence the voice of dissent. Instead of ignoring the ground realities, New Delhi must take immediate steps for initiating a process of dialogue both with Pakistan and the estranged people of Kashmir, create conducive climate for pursuing that process by removing the bulk of troops from the civilian areas, scrapping the draconian laws, restoring people’s civil liberties and adopting other necessary CBMs. It is doubtful that the new government which assumes office after the ongoing election, will demonstrate its will and capacity to pursue the process of peace and composite dialogue realistically, as a matter of priority.