Ballot trumps the bullet

Shiban Khaibri
Yet again democracy and the power of vote have triumphed in the first phase of the elections to the Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir putting at rest ambivalences in certain circles about these elections. In Kashmir, despite the biting cold and the lurking threats by the elements inimical to peace, prosperity and progress could not transform, even in the least, into a fear to prevent the enthusiastic voter from exercising   his or her right to vote. To come out and in large numbers, to beat all previous records to cast the vote to choose one’s candidate of liking, has simply strengthened the tenets of Indian democracy – especially in Kashmir valley and trumped the enemies of the believers in ballot. A record voter turnout of over 72% in the valley has upset the apple cart of the secessionists and separatists who have been thriving on the inventory of falsehood, hate, religious fundamentalism and patronage from Pakistan for decades. Not only was a record turnout witnessed but the process of voting continued even beyond the closing time as voters had queued up in huge numbers braving biting chill. Four phases of polls are to follow and hopefully the trend is expected to be the same as witnessed in the first phase. It could be even more irrespective of strongly worded fresh warning posters having appeared in parts of the Valley by certain terror groups.
As per reports, in a few constituencies, the voter percentage was simply phenomenal as Sonawari recorded 80%, Kangan 77 and Doda nearly 80% which speaks volumes about the message written on the wall about the perceptible change in the political landscape of the state with particular reference to the areas falling in Kashmir division and in Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah areas falling in Jammu. Urge to cast their vote for the first time, the young electorate showed increasing enthusiasm to be part and parcel of the Indian democratic process. Needless to add, it is this segment of the society which has been vulnerable and an easy target of the myopic propaganda and indoctrination to resort to violent means to achieve a diabolic political end benefitting only our belligerent neighbour. Aspirations of the young cannot be held hostage always to outdated political issues which have their roots only in the hard core extremism which strategies for complete exclusiveness and radicalization of the societies. The call for poll boycott given by Pro- Pakistani organizations and  contemptuously negated by the electorate in constituencies termed as “sensitive” in Kashmir and Jammu divisions could be interpreted in many ways but all interpretations converge at one point only and that is the belief in the democratic set up of India where people belonging to any sect, religion, region, language, colour and  caste are treated as one entity with no discrimination about which our constitution stands as a guarantee.
This aspect, even in the least, cannot be found anywhere in Pakistan about which the octogenarian separatist Kashmiri leader Syed Geelani is proud instead of feeling otherwise. In one of his speeches made recently (on Nov.6, 2014) he is watched inciting his followers to recite with him that in the faith pursued by him and “all of us”, “there is no secularism, there is no socialism, there is no nationalism, there is no provincial nationalism either.” He goes on to boastfully  claim, in chants, allegiance and belongingness to a country, the only one in the world having come up in existence on the basis of religion. A few followers of him cannot be construed to be the overall voice of the Kashmiri people which was well demonstrated by the voters casting their votes in unbelievable percentage in the first phase. Geelani’s rhetoric of hard core fundamentalism and secessionism and Pakistani chant has worn out and is fast losing its relevance especially among the young who want development through the medium of an honest and performance oriented Government. It is still the magnanimity of Indian government that such “leaders” are allowed to express themselves as they want with impunity. The fact remains that the fear of gun and terrorism can scare people for a few months and years but not for an indefinite period, the bullet may hold sway for some time but ultimately has got to be trumped by ballot and peaceful process of settling disputes.
We have seen terrorism has not sustained itself anywhere in the world beyond a specified period of a few years and even two to three decades but it loses its relevance thereafter as terror is antagonist to the very fact of “live and let live”, a prerequisite for a peaceful and dignified life of “the people organized for law within a definite territory”. It met a non resurgent death in Sri Lanka, it crumbled in Palestine way back in 1988 and was officially renounced by the PLO and Fatah no longer engages in any armed violence, it did not gain foothold in Israel. It has shown the process of crumbling even in Afghanistan where   democratic process gained ground to elect their new President. Even in Pakistan where patronizing terrorism is a state policy, areas bordering Afghanistan like Waziristan and other tribal areas   etc are bombarded by Pakistani military itself because they can  manufacture and export terror but not afford to sustain it themselves. In other words, gun culture, terrorism and armed violence alien to Kashmiri society till 1989-90, sustained, patronized, indoctrinated, helped and supported by Pakistan is about to run its full circle to get lost ignominiously in the pages of History.
Prime Minister’s clarion call to voters in Jammu and Kashmir to vote to bid adieu to the dynastic rules and usher in an era of development and over all progress seems to have met with positive response by the people. The people fed up with the malaise of Hartals and protests as routine; want good governance, transparent and accountable. These “Hartals” have become redundant over a span of over 24 years for no economic, political or social cause except spreading confusion.  These Hartals would have earned some legitimacy if a call for just one Hartal would have been there for calling back and resettling the ethnic minority of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir. Besides, the high pitch noise about fears from “the policies of the BJP”, hype about Article 370 etc; have gone astray. The terror incidents like in Arnia sector, 50 Kms from Jammu recently to cause disruptions in the election tempo have only demonstrated the frustration and ulterior motives of Pakistan and her agents.   More than 42% of the total candidates in the state are from the Muslim community fighting elections on the tickets of the BJP, a hitherto political “touch not”  in the Valley which again shows the vastness and the immeasurable depth of Indian democracy. Pakistan and the separatists have again to feel gloomy, their despondency and deep depression being imminent; the question is of the degree.

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