Urban Body Poll: Aftermath

…was it a genuine electoral exercise?

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 23 2018 10:45PM | Updated Date: Oct 23 2018 10:45PM
Urban Body Poll: AftermathRepresentational Pic

From Farooq Abdullah’s parliamentary membership on a mere 7 percent polled In Srinagar/Budgam constituency in 2017 to Bashir Ahmad Mir’s win in ward 74 of Srinagar Municipal corporation with 8 votes out of 9 votes cast in 2018, the marked deficit in the proclaimed democratic order is as glaring as the daylight. It does prompt a question-was the farce being enacted a genuine electoral exercise by any stretch of imagination? The run-up to the so called urban body poll, the actual polling, the count all has the appearance of a tailored process, which could be described as anything but democratic. Democracy shines by public participation. The apathy of the people in the process being enacted takes the sheen off it, what remains is an experiment devoid of an outcome, which could have a grain of acceptance.     

Kashmir witnessed four phases of urban body poll in October 2018, on the 8th 10th 13th and 16th with a turnout of 8.3 percent on 8th, 3.4 percent on 10th, 3.5 percent on 13th and 4.2 percent on 16th. Overwhelming majority of people stayed away from the poll. The state narrative failed to convince people that nothing beyond electing municipal councillors for addressing urban concerns in capital city—Srinagar and the towns is the agenda. Lack of public participation was a clear demonstration that people’s priorities lie elsewhere. Instead of resorting to window dressing by fake democratic order translating to questionable electoral process, the state would do well address the basic issue. The basic issue remains conflict resolution. Instead of putting in a mechanism, which could address the various dimensions of basic issue in a peaceful manner, an enforced status quo is at works. The thrust of the state in enforcing the status quo entails violence. The resultant threat to life and limb disrupts societal order. The resistance to the prevailing order continues in one form or another.

In the prevailing order, where security of life and limb has a huge question mark over it due to an unresolved conflict, addressing governance and developmental issues cannot have takers beyond a minuscule minority working on a personal agenda. The minuscule minority that goes with the state narrative is a marginal element, having no bearing on the larger question. It remains on the fringe. The larger narrative remains with the support of overwhelming majority. Face to face with state repression, it retains its verve. The resistance refuses to die down, in spite of denial of space for peaceful perusal of the objective. The denial of space for peaceful perusal of the basic objective gets channelized into unforeseen ventures, with unavoidable consequences. In the midst of it, state gets into the process of circumventing the dominant sentiment by means far removed from realistic assessment of the situation. The means the state employs might have the democratic garb, but remain devoid of its form and spirit. 

As it stands, the urban body poll remained devoid of the democratic form as well as its spirit, given the number of wards where there was no contestant, hence no poll. And, there were also number of wards, where there was only one contestant, elected unopposed. In ten districts of Kashmir valley, as many as 185 out of a total of 624 wards has had no contestants. It left 439 wards in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and municipal committees of various towns, out of which 231 had no poll, as they had a single contestant without an opponent. This left barely 208 wards, where the poll was held, which amounts to exactly one third of total number of wards (208 out of 624) while two thirds (416 out of 624) were recorded as no poll wards. This figures show a near total unconcern with the farce enacted in the name of democracy. The farce multiplies as it is noted that the names of winning candidates were made known on the day the count was taken on October, the 20th 2018. It follows that that the names of candidates were kept a secret, hence their names remained unknown to the electorate, supposed to elect them-could a greater farce be imagined? 

The state, as is its norm works on building-up parallel narratives, such as the Jammu narrative, the Ladakh narrative. Categorizing regional and sub-regional narratives is meant to trump the sentiment of overwhelming majority. ‘K’ dispute has to be taken in its totality rather than working up regional and sub-regional narratives. In its totality ‘K’ dispute concerns people of erstwhile state across LoC. It includes Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) and Gilgit-Baltistan. Both India and Pakistan claim the state in its erstwhile pre-1947 form, while for the people of state it concerns their fundamental right—the right of self-determination. The denial of the fundamental right has resulted in an intense conflict, with gross violation of human rights. Human rights violations have been recently highlighted in UN human rights council report. In spite of denial of recorded facts by the state, the report continues to make rounds. Circumventing it by tailored elections and building parallel narratives is hardly going to evade the main issue.  

Barely a day after people of the state were appraised of the results of tailored election, Kulgam tragedy unfolded with 6 civilian deaths, apart from 3 militants losing their lives in a conflict that shows no signs of abetting. On the same day on LoC in Sunderbani, three soldiers lost their lives, apart from two labelled by the state as intruders. ‘K’ conflict continues to devour lives; tailored elections cannot alter the grim reality.  

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]






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