Ballot Bullet Stone

What will the coming elections mean for Kashmir?

01 September 2014

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FOR SPRING THE MIST WAS UNSEASONAL, and visibility low on the highway that runs south from Srinagar. There was little traffic, and only men in uniform seemed able to move through the early-morning haze. In khaki, olive green, and mottled camouflage, heavily armed clusters of police, paramilitary and army personnel were everywhere. Their presence is routine in the Kashmir valley, where more than half a million Indian soldiers are stationed, making it one of the most densely militarised zones in the world

But that April morning was not routine. It was voting day in Anantnag, the constituency that covers Kashmir’s southern countryside. This was the first of three seats in the valley that people were voting for in the most recent elections to the Indian Parliament. The others were to follow at week-long intervals. That is probably the time it takes to reassemble the “security grid” for each constituency, without which the conduct of elections is impossible here. (On the day Anantnag, with its 1.3 million registered voters, held elections, 54 million voters in the southern state of Tamil Nadu cast their ballots for 39 seats.)

Sanjay Kak  is a film-maker and occasional writer, whose recent work includes the documentary Jashn-e-AzadiHow we celebrate freedom (2007) about the conflict in Kashmir. He is the editor of the anthology Until My Freedom Has ComeThe New Intifada in Kashmir (Penguin India 2011).

Keywords: elections democracy election violence Jammu and Kashmir voter turnout youth protesters National Conference People's Democratic Party