ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Another Opportunity in Kashmir

The 2008 polls can be a watershed to end the bloodshed - if the State and the Hurriyat heed the message.

The significantly high voter turnout in the recently concluded seven-phase elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has become the leitmotif around which all analysis of this event is being structured. This is not entirely misplaced given the large-scale public demonstrations favouring azaadi, or independence, in the Kashmir Valley in the middle of the year posed a question mark on the advisability of holding elections in the State. Even New Delhi had appeared to have doubts about convening elections so soon after the Amarnath agitations had exposed regional and religious fault lines in the State. The separatists, on their part, had seemed to strengthen sufficiently by that agitation to overcome their own divisions and unite again under a single All Parties Hurriyat Conference and had given out a call to boycott these elections.

Under these circumstances, the fact that over 55% of the voters in the Kashmir Valley cast their ballots indicates the significance of the event. It is true that most of these votes came from the rural areas while urban centres like Srinagar, which are the core centres of separatist politics, saw a low 20% voter turnout. But even here the trend has been unmistakable. In the 2002 elections, just over 30,000 people had voted in the eight segments of Srinagar, while this election saw more than 1,11,000 voters exercising their franchise. Factors like the lack of terrorist violence and very tight security arrangements played their part in increasing voter turnout, but the political message given by the people of Kashmir needs careful study and response.

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