Kashmir ballot – a sign of hope or one more false dawn

November 19, 2008

Kashmiris in the part controlled by India have, by all accounts, turned out in far higher numbers than expected to vote in elections to the state assembly this week.

While New Delhi sees each such vote as an implicit recognition of the legitimacy of its rule there, the Kashmiris themselves are  trying to make a distinction between voting for representatives to help improve their lives and the larger, long-running goal of freedom.

Independence is a separate issue and there isn’t a contradiction in lining up to vote for a state assembly that is under the Indian constitution an integral part of the country, a 70-year voter told our reporter.

He said he would be back on the streets shouting  slogans for “azadi” (freedom) if there are more demonstrations of the kind that shook the Valley just a few months back, sparked by a  government decision to hand over land near a shrine in the troubled region to a Hindu trust for the benefit of  pilgrims.

But the separatists had asked the people not to vote regardless and a turnout of 57 percent in Bandipora in northern Kashmir,  up from last time’s 31 percent doesn’t make them look very good.  This is a government figure and even if the real figure was  lower it was certainly far higher than the 25 percent that they were privately hoping for, said the Kolkata-based newspaper, The Telegraph.

 A BBC reporter said he could not enter a polling booth in Ajas village, so great was the rush of people coming out to vote,  braving bitter cold and the fear of violence.

So are there winds of change blowing in the Himalayan region, especially after cataclysmic change in Pakistan which has long supported the Kashmiris struggle for separation but is now battling Islamist militants in its western region for its own survival?

It is early days yet. Monday was only the first day of a staggered polling process that runs into the second month to ensure security forces can be rotated across the state . Srinagar, which is really the hotbed of the separatist sentiment in the Valley, is to vote later and that vote will be closely scrutinised. Any optimism after the first phase of polling was misplaced, the Kashmir Times warned, noting there was a large presence of security forces in Bandipora and therefore coercion or forcing people to vote which has happened in the past couldn’t be ruled out.

“It will be wishful thinking, as some official circles have claimed, that the people of Kashmir have rejected the separatists call and disapproved their stance on the disputed nature of Kashmir by turning out in large number in the election,” it said. The people joining the polls have said clearly it is only for redressal of day-day-problems and nothing to do with a solution of the Kashmir problem, it said.

Still,  “the absolutism of the separatists – no vote till Kashmir is free of Indian rule – did not find many takers, at least in the first  phase,” said the Telegraph.

And who knows this may just be a new start, it said. If there is peace and stability, and the new administration succeeds in rebuilding trust, perhaps the appeal of separatism may lessen, the newspaper said.

We have been here before, though, including the last round in 2002 when a coalition government led by a regional group and the Congress party was installed amid high hopes. It quickly ran aground , ending in some of the biggest anti-India protests in years.


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I really wonder how can you hate a country’s rule and still vote in large numbers in a voting system set up by the same country? I dont think the people of Kashmir are so stupid that they cant know the difference or that they are legistimising the Indian rule by voting.

Could there be a another reason that Kashmiris are sensible enough to hedge their future in India than under a nation where a person might be bombed from a drone without warning? and the media CANNOT digest this fact it might be believing the oponion of a bunch of guys who have more than one reason to keep the conflict alive?

Apparently hundreds of people shouting on the streets and burning vehicles seems to represent thousands of people who watch this on a sideline,which the media apparently assumes so easily.No wonder the report seems to be interested in oponions of only one side.

Posted by Nithin | Report as abusive

Sanjeev Miglani
“..turnout of 57 percent in Bandipora in northern Kashmir, up from last time’s 31 percent..”
– HA HA HA –It seems democracy & the Kashmiri voter has spat on ‘anal-eyes’ like you & your ilks(include myra american vadapau also..)

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

If at all there is a turnout for elections, it is because of the person carrying the gun in your picture. They drag the people out of their houses at gunpoint to orchestrate this drama.

Posted by Faisal Mahboob | Report as abusive

Kashmiris are at the end of the day a clever people they would much rather act prima donna and get billions in subsidies from the republic of India than throw their lot with ramshakel bankrupt punjabi dominated Pakistan who treat all non punjabis as second class citizens.I guess we win again and Pakistan looses again but then ashmir is yesterday’s issue today’s issue is Balochistan and NWFP :)

Posted by shantanu chatterjee | Report as abusive

Faisal Mahboob ,

i don’t know whether you are an indian. in case you are you should know that in every state there always is a heavy military presence during all the elections. we , in india take our elections very seriously. election commission is doing a wonderful job and for the last decade all elections are free and fair.

Posted by unknown indian | Report as abusive

Faizal Sir,

You need help. People in Kashmir will realize slowly what is important for them.Terrorism will give way to governance when people realize the falsehood preached by a few people who want to sabotage religion for their personal ambition.Unless Islam is revolutionized & modelled as per Turkey, don’t expect anybody to join or get hoodwinked.Your cultural policemen are barbaric, they put acids on their sisters while their brothers enjoy watching movies.

You know what i was asking searching for a bride, one of my inlaws asked me what do you do ? I said i am unemployed after the financial meltdown, i am having a debt of so many $$, i expect your daughter with some allowance so i can recover. He said first recover yourself before you ask my daughter. Even if you are smart, intelligent you need to have some money in your pocket before you seek a bride, you can’t expect someone to give their daughter to a bankrupt guy.Only 15% are idealist in this world.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

I dont know why people miss conieve elections with the refrendum of being with India.According to UN resolution ,when first election was held in Kashmir, it said,”Elections in Kashmir are only for administrative purposes, will not alter the disputed nature of the stste”. So if people come out for voting it is for their daily problems like roads ,water & electricity-as they keep saying when they ink the ballot!
If they were the KAshmiris final will about the dispute,till yet there has been so many elections, but still the issue is same. This was ststed also in 2002 elections,that people have now come into mainstream(say India), but was mistaken. The streets of Kashmir did a rehetroic of Azadi for more than 40days that too in millions comming out volantarily everyday.
The apparent is on the wall.Kashmir is a disputed territory between India & Pakistan.And, needs to be resolved in accordance to the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.

Posted by umar | Report as abusive

What Umar is saying is that like all Muslims from that state (not India), they are only interested in beggining for money and when they get what they need, they will backstab India which is spending more money on that pos state than any ohter (god I pray that BJP does something about this).

It will be cold day in Pakistan (or Hell, whatever u wanna call it) when Kashmir will break off from India.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

“The streets of Kashmir did a rehetroic of Azad..”

—For once you are Right..so what if you meant otherwise..lol

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

Barack Obama has put Kashmir on the front burner as one of his core foreign policy issues.He basically believes that Afghanistan will never be solved,and PAKISTAN will never stop its covert operations unless the Kashmir issue is solved.Basically,if PAKISTAN has to stop mischief making then hindustan will have to do the same.

Looks like the time for Hindustan to accept outside interference on Kashmir is here :p

Posted by Qasim Awan | Report as abusive

Kashmiris must be among the stupidest people on Earth. Their lot is to be truly pitied. They would forsake a booming, democratic India, admittedly one that has mishandled the situation there repeatedly and indulged in a few excesses, to throw in their lot with a failed theocratic state like Pakistan? Precisely why Sheikh Abdullah wanted India in 1947. Azadi is even sillier. In fact India should summon the courage to give the Valley Azadi and then embargo it. Lets see how they survive as a tiny, underdeveloped mountain valley with no education, infrastructure or industry(all wiped out by foolhardy separatism and militancy) and sandwiched between an increasingly fractious Islamic Pakistan, India and China. Give it maybe 25 years and watch as a younger generation of Kashmiris will question the rationale of their deluded elders. India should stop wasting its time on stupid ultra-nationalism and focus on what will make it progress better.

Posted by KD | Report as abusive

LOL its india trying to act like a democracy again while putting guns to the head of children and women and forcing them to hold that filthy indian flag in there hand and chant the devils words such as india zindabad indias occupation will not last long look what happened this year the whole world heard the crys of freedom from indian occupied kashmir

Posted by Bilal Kashmiri | Report as abusive

Majority of the Kashmiris like India and believe in Indian democracy. What are the other choices they have

1) Joining Pakistan : it is like a suciude. They know the fate of PoK and other Pakistab cities. Paki is still yet to have democracry for a decade continuously.

2) Azad : It will be like Afghanistan, Mullas etc. All the terror gangs in Kashmit will fight with each other for power builiding more camps and exporting terror to the world.

On the other hand, joing with India gives the democracy and like a honest life.

Posted by Ali Khan | Report as abusive