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Posted at: Dec 8, 2014, 12:45 AM; last updated: Dec 7, 2014, 11:25 PM (IST)ON THE FRONTLINE

Democracy in Kashmir induces fear across border

Democracy in Kashmir induces fear across border

Civilians leave for safer places during an encounter at Pindi Khattar village in the Arnia sub-sector of Jammu. A Tribune Photo

Arun Joshi

For all these years of militancy in Kashmir, what we have seen is the protection walls of Army camps going up and up in height and concertina wire rolls around them widening their space after every “fidayeen” attack. This time around, after the audacious attack by militants on the Army camp in Mohura, near Uri, close to the Line of Control (LoC), there will be more such activities.

Soldiers and officers are not supposed to be killed the way they were on December 5. Six militants came from across the LoC, armed and equipped with Pakistani guns, grenades and food, mounted an attack on the Army camp, killing eight soldiers, including an officer.

Pak backed attack

This clearly indicated that Pakistan was behind the attack. The Army believed and asserted that the assault was aimed at derailing the democratic process in Kashmir. Pakistan and its men in Kashmir were finding themselves hapless against the tide of rising voter turnout.

The voter turnout in the first two phases was more than 72 per cent, unheard of in the history of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Uri is one of the 16 constituencies which will go to the polls in the third phase on December 9.

Turnout an eyesore

The first question is why the spread of democracy in Kashmir is an eyesore for some, particularly Pakistan, militants and separatists. It is because the people are gravitating towards polling booths to get their grievances redressed by their elected representatives.

This may not be leading to the solution of the Kashmir issue as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his predecessor Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will like the people to accept. Fine enough, just a recall; turn the clock back to December 2003. The venue was Ganderbal and Mufti Mohammad exhorted militants to give up guns because elected representatives would talk about what they were asking for.

Change in tack

The second scene is the Budget session of the state Legislative Assembly in Jammu. Mufti urged the Government of India to “talk to us, elected representatives of Kashmir.” In 2008, Omar Abdullah fought the elections to provide “sadak, bijli and paani” to the people. Within 10 months, he changed tack and talked of the political solution of the Kashmir issue.

Both political rivals say the heavy voter turnout is not the end of the matter. Fine enough, but why are they fighting the polls? Mufti’s answer is to provide good governance. Omar says to fight for the political rights of Kashmiris. Why did they not fight elections in 1990 before the expiry of the six months of President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir? They were not even in the Valley then.

The fact on the ground was that the situation was not conducive with violence raging all across the region. Talking about elections phrased as “political process” was like “inviting instant death”. They had to wait till 1996 for the elections, more than six and a half years after the Assembly was dissolved in February 1990.

Trust is back

Even if these elections are for the people’s urge for basic amenities, the fact is that they are turning up at polling booths. It is a sign that they are trusting the democratic means for that. This may not be a rejection of anything, but is certainly the acceptance of democracy in all its forms and manifestations.

Separatists say these are non-issues. Then why the boycott call ? Pakistan fears that the widening of democracy is an “antidote” to Pakistan’s plans. The world has heard it loud and clear that voters are coming out in large numbers to exercise their right to franchise.


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