Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti know they are wrong in asking for Assembly polls in J&K alongside Lok Sabha elections

Elections can wait for a couple of months but lives lost cannot be returned.

 |  5-minute read |   11-03-2019
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In December 2018, panchayat elections were held in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, but no polling was seen in Shopian and Pulwama. Of the 2,135 halqas in the Valley, no candidate stood for elections in 708, which means the seats remain vacant. Kulgam had no polling in 99 per cent of halqas and no candidate for 87 per cent of its sarpanch posts. Anantnag saw no contest in 76 per cent of its halqas.

militancy-690_031119040042.jpgClearly, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir doesn't allow for Assembly elections to be held at this point. (Source: Reuters)

In May 2017, the by-election to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat was cancelled. The Election Commission said the situation was not ‘feasible’ to hold elections.

Earlier in April 2017, during the by-poll for Srinagar constituency, eight people were killed while protesting — voter turnout was six per cent.

The data provides a sneak peek into the prevailing security situation in Kashmir.

At least four districts of south Kashmir — Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam — are completely under the grip of militancy. The situation has been worsening since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces on July 8, 2016.

Pakistan's proxy war with India and the unsettled political issues of the state have turned the situation in Kashmir extremely volatile.

Militants who are determined to derail the democratic process had warned voters ahead of the panchayat elections to bring shrouds with them if they stepped out to vote. Over the last several years, many sarpanches and party workers have been killed for participating in democratic processes.  

This information seems to have somehow skipped former chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah — who is batting for simultaneous elections in J&K along with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Former chief minister and president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti too doesn’t seem to be mindful of the security situation in demanding that Assembly elections in J&K be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. 

NC chairman Farooq Abdullah has also raised the question that if Lok Sabha elections to the six seats can be held, why can't Assembly elections be organised?

The truth that Farooq Abdullah refuses to see is that the local body elections were anything but peaceful in large parts of Kashmir.

According to the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections announced on Sunday, March 10, by the Election Commission, the situation in the Valley is so volatile that the election to Anantnag alone will be held in three phases.

Explaining the move, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that in view of the constraints in the availability of central forces, other logistics and recent incidents of violence, the commission has decided to hold only Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir. The decision, he said, was made after consulting the state administration and officials of the home ministry.

The decision to not hold the J&K Assembly elections with the Lok Sabha polls is not extraordinary. Since 1967, the state has never held simultaneous polls. Only in 1977, 1996 and 2014, these were held the same year.

However, even then, these weren't held simultaneously.

J&K is a special case where not only are the forces deployed to ensure free and fair elections, but security is also provided to every single candidate contesting the elections. This is in view of the threat from militants to the lives of those who choose to participate in elections. It’s difficult to spare forces for this when a large number is already deployed across the country for ensuring free and fair Lok Sabha polls.

The Muftis and Abdullahs know this truth. They are still seemingly misguiding the public. To say that elections in the state are not being held simultaneously because the security situation worsened in the last 4.5 years is thus just a half-truth.

mufti-690_031119040100.jpgWhy so demanding? Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti know that J&K's security situation makes simultaneous elections impossible. (Source: India Today)

For any free and fair election, it is important that a large number of people feel safe to step out and vote. The Abdullahs and Muftis have security covers — the voters do not.

It is for their safety that elections are held only when there is a guarantee that people can come to vote safely. This can happen only when there are adequate forces on the ground.

In a hurry to form a government, politicians have no right to demand that security be compromised.

Once the Lok Sabha elections are over, J&K can hold elections under a strict security vigil because elections can wait for a couple of months, but lives lost cannot be returned.

Also read: People beating up Kashmiris in Lucknow and elsewhere are insulting India and our Constitution


Vandana Vandana @vandana5

Author is assistant editor DailyO.

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