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Disenchanted Valley

Disenchanted Valley

Statistics are enough to comprehend the mood of the Kashmir Valley. A dismal voter turnout simply points at the gross boycott that has prevailed the Valley despite other regions trying hard to balance the aggregate turnout of Jammu and Kashmir. Around 44 per cent of the total turnout in the six parliamentary segments of J&K is the lowest since 2004 polls. While Ladakh registered over an impressive 63 per cent, Anantnag dipped to its lowest-ever turnout of 2.38 per cent. An unprecedented three-phased polling schedule in Anantnag did not come to much help as the statistics from the Election Commission portray a bleak setting in the militant hotbed. The three phases registered a cumulative 8.16 per cent polling as per EC official which outrightly highlights the Valley's state of affairs. And, to add to the misery, there was not a single vote cast in as many as 300 polling booths of the region. A meagre turnout was expected in Shopian and Pulwama where recent encounters of militants and arrests of youth marred the enthusiasm to exercise one's franchise. To further elaborate the adversity of Valley's dismal turnout, grenades were hurled at polling booths in an attempt to disrupt the polling process though no casualties were reported. Not just Anantnag, but Srinagar and Baramulla too did not see much excitement to vote with 14 and 34 per cent turnout respectively. Data compiled by J&K Coalition of Civil Society cites 160 civilian deaths in the state with 123 of those reported in Anantnag, Baramulla and Srinagar. Terming 2018 as the bloodiest year, their data gives an insight into what could be the reason for a boycott, in case it is not obvious. Clearly, worsening security situation coupled with a rise in violence has made civilians wary of leaving homes. Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam all witnessed fewer people with a constant threat of militant attack. Voting anyway was supposed to be marred with obstacles in a place where security personnel outnumbered voters. And, everything, the low turnout, the constant threat of militancy, the outnumbering security personnel along with specific security measures cite the Valley's plight. New Delhi wants to resolve the fragile condition the Valley finds itself in but in recent times it has only succumbed to the rising conflict in the region. National parties far away from the region advocate what they think is the way out for Kashmir – annulling Article 370 or reviewing AFSPA – but none stressed on at least ensuring a proper atmosphere for civilians to even feel like voting. Of course, militancy accounts for most of the apprehensions but minus that the will to vote would also be scrambled simply because past five years have not yielded much for Kashmir. Militancy has only risen and youth have indulged in violence even more. Separatist ideology has done its rounds and the state has been in a turmoil with no practical solution to the core problem and just more and more of security. If what happened in Pulwama in February sparked fears of most, it could also have motivated them to vote so that their mandate marks a difference. But it scared them and to the extent that Anantnag, despite three stages of voting, registered lowest-ever turnout. Valley's mood tells a tale that politicos must hear. It tells the nation that not enough efforts have been made to improve the situation of militancy, insurgency and the youth ordeal. They talk of scrapping special privilege to the state and regulating security forces when there is no sustainable solution to improve the state's unpleasant situation. Civil societies and local gatherings cannot bring about an overarching change despite dreaming of the same. They need the state, the Centre to intervene, not in the conventional way of arming the Valley but more like inducing socio-economic measures to make better the gloomy air. It is very important to note that Kashmir's heart is plagued with negativity and equally important to understand that existing measures to improve the condition would not yield anything. Our apprehensions of separatist ideology aggravating and implementing a conducive effect have drifted us away from our duty towards J&K as an integral part of Union of India. Insurgency makes us wary of the fact that Pakistan has forever tried to annexe Kashmir and entertaining this undesirable thought has made us impalpable to the Valley's disintegrating youth and society. Fighting insurgency and militancy has made us lose Kashmir in heart and mind even if it is intact and ever-fragile bordering Pakistan who may not leave any stone unturned to stir more trouble. The low voter turnout only reveals what is the underlying truth.

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