Kashmir has breathed a huge sigh of relief after Election Commission deferred the Wednesdays Anantnag by-poll to May 25. This has been done to prevent the repeat of the killings during Srinagar by-poll. Authorities apprehended the situation to take a turn for worse in South Kashmir and justifiably so. The area was the spearhead of the last years unrest which was triggered by the killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Besides, the South has been the originator of the trend of massively attended militant funerals and the encounter triggered mobilizations. And if the recent election campaign was anything to go by, the omens for the polling day didnt look good. For one, the parties struggled to campaign. Hardly any public meeting was held. And wherever the politicians went, the knots of angry youth stoned them. There were however some closed-door meetings of the party workers. What is more, across the wide swath of South, one could hardly find a flag of a contesting political party hanging across a road or pasted on a wall. Such a complete dissociation from the poll process has never happened in Valley, not even in the early nineties. And this may be also the first time in the democratic history of the state that an election has been deferred due to the fear of a violent opposition to the process from the people. Certainly, in a place where the security personnel struggle to sanitize an encounter site from the advancing groups of youth out to rescue the trapped militants, safeguarding a polling booth was always going to be a tricky proposition. And Anantnag was certainly going to be the most challenging place to hold a poll.
The postponement of the election has made one thing clear, the situation in Kashmir is fast slipping out of control. Barely 7 percent of polling is a complete rejection of not only New Delhi but much more forcefully it is the rejection of the mainstream political class in the state. As boycott in Srinagar constituency has made it clear, there is no mainstream political leader in the state who speaks to the aspirations of the people. One major reason for this is the rapacious pursuit of power and pelf that the mainstream politics has become. After the unrest last year which led to killings of nearly a hundred people and the blindings of several hundred, the mainstream politics in Kashmir has lost its morality. It has also lost its ideological conviction, if there was any. When a ruling party coolly presides over the killings of the very people who elected it to power, and the opposition watches over it as a muted spectator, they lose the right to seek votes. What is more, they even lose the right to represent their people. If the ruling party had stepped down over the disproportionate excesses last year, this would have lent the mainstream politics some moral authority. People would have looked up to the pro-establishment leaders, if not for their politics then certainly for their integrity. There wouldnt be this complete loss of faith in the system. It seems now as if it already too late. But there can still be hope, if the mainstream parties bring their politics closer to the aspirations of the people.
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