Author: The Speaking Chinar
•7:47 PM

Just two years after the farce of 1987 in Kashmir, the Indian general elections were held in 1989. Mr. B, a Pandit of some repute and an Indian administrative service bureaucrat of his time, lived by his job, having been posted at various places and levels of his career. With the humiliation and denial of 1987 still fresh in the memory of common people, Kashmiris hardly bothered about the 1989 general elections. Mr. B, then posted in Srinagar, hailed originally from Islamabad town in Anantnag district (part of the Anantnag parliamentary constituency), decided early in the day to exercise his ‘democratic right’. He left early, had the vehicle drop him home for a quick change. On such an indifferent day the roads were already deserted but for the presence of Indian forces, the drive home did not take too long for him. By the fading afternoon he was walking towards the polling booth. The old government school, with its crumbling walls and faded color wore the look of a deserted outpost, with the few uniformed sentries guarding a seemingly empty fort. Inside the polling booth, the poll officials were lazing with nothing else to do but stare at an obscure door, which in its creaking moaned like an old man weary of walking a few steps. A clueless guy on a rickety chair opened the electoral register to locate Mr. B on it. Shuffling a few pages the unshaven guy on a rickety chair, zeroed in on a row of records on his register, stood up and muttered ‘you have already voted Jinab’. A silence was followed by a stern stare and Mr. B grabbed the electoral register, flipping over pages like mad. Rummaging on dusty old table he found that the register had entries of votes already cast, that not only included his own but many votes of his family too. Standing there for a second, perplexed, then started to walk back, towards the creaky moaning door. Having taken just a few steps, he turned back and again demanded the register. Pointing to his electoral record he pointed the register towards the unshaven guy on that rickety chair “vote traavun ous vyann sahlei, magar myaane parnukk karzehaeev lehaazei. Yeh myaness navaas seeth dastakhatt badle nyatth karuun goev naa zulm” (proxy voting on my behalf can still be pardoned. But you should have given some respect to my education. Your putting a thumb impression instead of a signature against my name is too much disrespect).

The man in the rickety chair was the National Conference polling agent of that polling booth. Even after such proxy voting, 1989 elections witnessed the lowest-ever voter turnout, at mere 5 percent in Srinagar and Ananatnag (according to official figures). Incidentally Ananatnag seat was ‘won’ by Pyare Lal Handoo of National Conference, Baramulla seat was declared ‘won’ by Saifuddin Soz (who was then with NC), while in Srinagar Mohammad Shafi Bhat of National Conference was declared to have ‘won unopposed’, as nobody else had filed nomination for this seat.    *1

Back in 2008, assembly elections.

On a bright day, not many had ventured out in Srinagar. We too stayed back home, election day becoming another cage for the commoners, with more troops than civilians visible on roads. More than a week after the elections had ended; my family received our voter ID cards, the data for which had been collected by visiting government officials’ months ahead of these elections. Ironically later found that our voter ID cards had, for days preceding and post these elections, been in the possession of the local henchmen of a political party. These local ‘political pimps’ had not only ensured ‘proper utilization’ of our elections cards, but also had the audacity to deliver them to us days after these elections had ended. Hence technically my family (including me) had voted, while we had not even actually ventured out on election day. An MLA who had never visited our constituency before the elections and never ever bothered to visit after the elections, had won. His only political virtue was being the brother of chief patron of National Conference and hence a part of the ‘nominated apparatus’ in Kashmir.

I am sure there are many across Kashmir who may have actually voted in recent elections and that their votes may have been counted along with our proxy votes. But when the outcome of such elections has been engineered to be decided by manipulation, fragmentation or even a poll boycott, what use is the vote of those who actually cast them? For a nation or a society to be regarded as maximally democratic, the right to fair political choices must be offered and extended to all state subjects in line with political agreements and promises. Sadly in conflict zones like Kashmir, primary democratic rights of deciding own future have been held hostage by India to farce of political nominations, only aiming to continue a military supported proxy occupation. And such Indian ‘democratic manipulation’ continues to be a theatre of the absurd.  

But then this has been going on in Kashmir for ages !

The entire democratic process has been strangulated and trampled time and again by the local zealots to serve their narrow political ends. These perversions in the long run have not only ridiculed the electoral process but also contributed to the spurt of fundamentalism, subversion and militant violence in the state” (P.S.Verma, Jammu and Kashmir at the political crossroads, 1994, p.114-125)

"The fact remained that the final decision about selection of candidates, extent of rigging and supply of funds rested with the central Congress leadership. Not even once the elections were fair and free and a candidate holding independent views had slim chance to be elected. It was taken for granted that so long as the ruling party was in the good books of the Central Government, it was sure by hook or by crook to win the majority at the polls; most of its candidates were declared elected without contest". (Prem Nath Bazaz, Democracy through Intimidation and Terror, New Delhi: Heritage Publishers)

*1 Mr B’s incident was narrated to me by my wonderful friend and artist par excellence Amin Sahab.

New Delhi- 
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