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Srinagar voter turnout of 38% unveils new political realities in Kashmir

Data implies that the Kashmiris' trust in the democratic system could be finally reviving after a three-decade absence marked by savage terror cycles.

News Arena Network - Srinagar - UPDATED: May 15, 2024, 05:34 AM - 4 mins read

The data implies that the Kashmiris' trust in the democratic system could be finally reviving after a three-decade absence marked by savage terror cycles.

Srinagar voter turnout of 38% unveils new political realities in Kashmir

Voters line up at a polling booth in the outskirts of Srinagar during the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 13, 2024. The turnout of 38% is seen as an indication of Kashmiris' trust reviving again in the electoral system.


On May 13, Srinagar, in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections, had reason to cheer as it recorded the highest voter turnout since 1996 at 38 per cent.

Though the numbers might not seem noteworthy they represent a shift in the political discourse of Jammu and Kashmir, an area ravaged by insurgency for years.

 

A mere 38 per cent turnout does not represent the collective will of the Kashmiris, but it indicates that a sizeable chunk of the population desires to speak out through ballots.

 

Whatever the case, the data implies that the Kashmiris' trust in the democratic system could be finally reviving after a three-decade absence marked by savage terror cycles.

 

What is more noteworthy is that those who resisted the idea of India, whether terrorists or separatists, have now joined hands to ensure their voices are heard.

 

Take for instance the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jel) an organisation banned under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2019, for supporting terrorism, promoting secessionist activities and collecting funds for terrorists.

 

Its leaders and former members also cast their votes this time – some of them after four decades.

 

A former prominent JeI leader of from Pulwama, Ghulam Qadir Wani, while casting his vote, said the  JeI had never called for a poll boycott, claiming that people voted out of their own free will in the past elections as well.

 

 JeI believes in exercising democratic measures to resolve disputes. Its strategy clearly states that Jamaat will not engage in any clandestine operations, he says. “Whatever we say, we will say it openly."

 

Another former Jel leader Dr Talat Majeed from Pulwama, who recently joined the Altaf Bukhari-led Apni Party, said after casting his vote, “This election process will answer those people who were claiming that the future of Kashmiris was not secure with India.”

 

Leaders from Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), which was also banned under the UAPA in December 2023, for promoting secessionist activities, terrorism and hatching conspiracies against the state of India, also had similar opinions.

 

Former the leader Zafar Habib, who also exercised his franchise this time round, said, he “voted for the first time in more than 40 years of boycott.” Unlike Jamaat leaders he admitted that “boycotting polls resulted in bad governance and poor leadership."

 

Expressing similar thoughts Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key figure in Kashmir politics and a moderate Hurriyat leader, said in a recent statement that "the drastic unilateral changes had complicated the dynamics of the Kashmir issue in 2019, making the boycott of elections irrelevant.

 

"In the changed circumstances, issuing a boycott call does not seem to carry the sense or yield the impact like in the past," the Mirwaiz said.

 On May 13, the first major election held in Kashmir since the repeal of Article 370, a large number of people turned out to vote for their candidates in Srinagar and other districts of south Kashmir.

 

True, the region has seen tremendous changes in the last five years, with politicians campaigning deep in Srinagar's core. However, most of that transformation has not been spontaneous.

 

It will be interesting to observe if the participation and results of these elections will inspire people to engage with the same zeal in the assembly elections. The signals, albeit early, are looking promising for the next elections.

 

 

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