oppn parties Foil Hurriyat Plan by Postponing Anantnag Elections

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After four months of standoff, including a bloody clash, India and China agree on pulling back troops at the LAC
oppn parties
Foil Hurriyat Plan by Postponing Anantnag Elections

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2017-04-10 21:09:49

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
There are two ways to look at what happened in Srinagar on polling day during the by-election for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. We can either take the 7% turnout as a referendum against India, the process of conducting elections and democracy. Or we can take the Pakistan-backed, Hurriyat-led disturbances and violence in that region on that day to be what they were – an anarchist and terrorist move to prevent the common people from exercising their franchise.

We cannot take the former to be true because of the simple reason that the Hurriyat, prompted by their Pakistani masters, had as usual created an atmosphere of fear and terror in which no citizen who fears for the safety of self and family would venture out to vote. Hence, one can say that the public were forced not to vote. So it was not and could not have been their free and fair decision. Fear of safety is paramount in the mind of the common man and it is stupid to expect people to go out and vote in the face of stones, petrol bombs and bullets. It is also stupid to expect that the security forces can make an area as big as the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency totally violence free. Thus, although the Hurriyat can gloat on having made the election look farcical, it needs to be said that the true picture of what the citizens want can only be gauged when they are allowed to vote without fear. The Hurriyat can even join the elections by putting up its candidate.

If the first is not true, obviously the second is. It is a measure of lack of confidence in its own standing that forces the Hurriyat to indulge in such violent measures to prevent people from voting. If it was sure that the people supported its agenda of not taking part in the Indian electoral process and demand self rule for Kashmir, then it would have allowed people to take a call according to their conscience. But anarchist groups are forever suspicious of the common people. They know that more people than expected would go out and vote if there is no pressure on them by terrorists. Hence they take all such measures as they can to ensure that people do not vote.

So what should the government do? As a fall-out, the PDP-led coalition government (of which the BJP is also a part) has asked it to postpone the Anantnag by-election. That again can be looked at from two perspectives. It can either be seen as surrender before anarchist forces or it can be seen as an attempt to take stock of the situation, let it improve and then hold the elections. Going ahead with polling in Anantnag after what happened in Srinagar will again throw up same results. Pakistan will again ask Hurriyat to create terror and prevent people from voting. There will be a low turnout, making it a farcical process. Although there is no minimum requirement about the percentage of voting (even a single vote polled is enough), obviously there must be a sizeable number of people voting in an election to make it truly democratic.

So the government should postpone the elections and study the situation. There is no question to talking to the Hurriyat as disturbing by-elections is just a small strategy in their overall agenda of freeing Kashmir from India. They want to show that the people are with them. The government has to adopt a two-prong strategy. It must educate the Anantnag electorate on why it is necessary for them to have a representative in Parliament. On the other hand, it must ensure ample security – by making preventive arrests and activating its web of informers to foil the Hurriyat plans of disrupting the polls – and ensure the safety of the voters. It must ensure that a sizeable number of people go out and vote. That will be the best response to Hurriyat.