While as National Conference, patron Farooq Abdullah managed to win Srinagar LoK Sabha seat and the elections for Anantnag LoK Sabha was postponed after widespread protests sparked on the day of polling that left eight people dead and over 300 injured. The poll percentage of 7.14 has raised serious questions on the credibility of these elections that were even acknowledged by the mainstream leaders. When last assembly elections were held in Nov – Dec 2014, despite boycott call people in different parts of the Valley queued outside polling stations and exercised their franchise without any fear. Nazir Khan of PDP who lost the by polls this time by a margin of over 10,000 votes was then contesting elections from Berwah assembly segment against then J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah. In February, Khan left Congress and joined the PDP and was given mandate for by polls by the PDP with a hope his voters could tilt balance in his favor.
On Election Day, at Aripathan village located on the foothills of the picturesque Tosmaidan forest range, in last assembly elections there was festivity all around the village and people in droves turned to vote for Khan who was considered as a local mainstream leader compared to Omar Abdullah who was considered as outsider to Beerwah constituency. Khan lost the seat with just 900 votes but managed to secure around 23,000 votes.
On April, 9 nobody turned at the polling station located in a school building, instead villagers openly boycotted the elections and didn’t even want to vote for their neighbor. And same was the case at all the neighboring polling stations, instead of voting youth were pelting stones throughout the day. And when polling closed, the poll percentage was all time low and eight youth were dead as forces had to battle protestors in most of the streets in Budgam district and other areas to enforce calm. Surprised, the political analysts and leadership of mainstream political parties are now asking what had happened in past 26 months that changed the political dynamics in Kashmir and people are angry and up in arms against the mainstream politicians.
Mainstream Parties losing credibility
When PDP leaders were campaigning in the 2014 assembly elections, the PDP sought votes in the Valley to keep BJP and RSS away from the state. And once results were declared and PDP emerged as biggest party with 28 seats, instead of forging a grand alliance, it preferred BJP that had got 25 seats. At the time of alliance, PDP founder, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said that this alliance is just like coming of North Pole and the South Pole together. Mufti Sayeed who had remained chief minister of the state from 2002 -2005 was hopeful that the new alliance will be just like the old one and will bring lot of development in the state. However, it didn’t happened and incidents in the state and across the country left people in Kashmir fuming and they felt as if they have been ditched by the politicians only for the sake of power and anger started brewing among the masses. The anger spilled when Hizbul Mujahedeen, commander, Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on July last year and the incidents that followed the killing of Wani left over 90 civilians dead and more than 15,000 civilians injured with significant numbers having pellet injuries. The mainstream politicians especially the ruling alliance failed to heal the scars that killings of civilians and five month long unrest had left in the Valley.
New Delhi’s Kashmir Policy And Tough Stand
Even after two years of coalition government, despite repeated requests from the stakeholders including the chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti for initiating dialogue with neighbouring Pakistan and the separatist leadership, the New Delhi maintained the tough position over Kashmir. During Modi’s visit to Kashmir, when then J&K chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at a public rally held at Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium in Srinagar on November 7 urged PM Modi that he should initiate talks with the neighbouring Pakistan, the veteran leader was rebuffed by Modi in front of his workers most of whom had come from south Kashmir. The retort didn’t left only Mufti dejected but more dejected were his workers. Even the New Delhi so far didn’t pay any heed to the recommendations of parliament members and former Union Minister, Yaswant Sinha who led several delegations to Kashmir during the last year’s unrest and then submitted those recommendations to Centre. The delegations were appointed by none but New Delhi itself and it seriously questions its sincerity towards Kashmir problem. And the recommendations are now gathering dust. The political dispensation in New Delhi has not given any importance to the recommendations of senior army commanders even who are facing wrath of the protestors.
This has given rise to the sense of alienation among the people in Kashmir; even those people who were risking their lives to cast their votes for the mainstream politicians are now feeling unhappy. And on the ground, the alienation has forced young generation to look towards the militancy as an option. The figures given by various security agencies are portraying a grim picture and hot summer which could lead situation towards disaster.
Dual Standard of mainstream Politicians
The mainstream politicians be it leaders of National Conference (NC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) they have always been trying to exploit situation once they are out of power. The statements of Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah in opposition and once in power are same. So far majority of mainstream leaders have failed to act as matured politicians both in opposition and in the power, they are only concerned about their survival and can go to any extent. These leaders have also exploited youths of Valley for achieving their political goals and that has brought situation in the Valley at the brink of debacle. Even the politicians in New Delhi by giving irresponsible statements towards the sensitive issues pertaining to Kashmir have further deteriorated the situation and gains made in the past years seem to have gone down the drain. New Delhi is wasting precious time and even the intelligentsia in India has realized that Kashmir is now sliding from their hands and some things needs to be done.
More than two years have passed since PDP – BJP government was formed in the state. While advocating for this alliance leaders of both the coalition government said that the coalition of PDP-BJP will bring peace and development in the state. On ground, the governance is missing, the condition of roads is deplorable and the projects taken by the government in different areas are moving at snail’s pace. Though they attribute this to the five month long unrest, however, the government has wasted a lot of time when situation was normal. Even today, the PDP and BJP government has not a single project about which they could boast. The ministers and legislators of ruling parties instead of being stationed in their own constituencies prefer to spend time in winter capital Jammu to escape the cold winter of Kashmir. The connection between ground workers and leadership seems to have disconnected and that has annoyed even those workers who have been facing the wrath of the protestors. Even the project to desilt Jhelum is moving at very slow pace and recently when downpour continued for four to five days, the people were worried about another flood. Even the projects that have been inaugurated by the current government were started by the previous government.
The Article appeared first in print edition on April 19-25, 2017