Indian Governments often like to claim Kashmiri participation in elections as a vote of confidence for India’s Kashmir policy and for Indian democracy. By the same yardstick, the abysmally low 7% vote in the Srinagar bypoll must be seen –in continuation of last year’s civilian resistance – as a decisive no-confidence vote for the Modi Government’s Kashmir policy.
The Government’s denial of any political foundation of the Kashmir issue; its insistence on equating Kashmiri civilian protests with terrorism; and its brutal crackdown on Kashmiri protesters that blinded hundreds of Kashmiri youth all flow from doctrine recommended by the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The 7% voter turnout is a resounding rebuff by Kashmir of the Doval doctrine, as well as an expression of anger by Kashmiris against the betrayal of Kashmiri aspirations and sentiments by the ruling PDP as well as Opposition NC.
Along with the pointedly low voter turnout, it is a brutal comment on the state of democracy that 8 Kashmiri civilians including very young people were shot dead by security forces during the bypoll.
Rather than blaming the Kashmir situation on a ‘foreign hand’, India would do well to acknowledge the political message of the 7% vote percentage which exposes the hollowness of the fiction of Kashmiri confidence and trust in India’s democratic process. It is urgently required that the Indian Government accept the need for a democratic political resolution to the Kashmir dispute.