Political Liquidity In Kashmir

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
Voters queue up outside a polling booth in Pattan area of North Kashmir's Baramulla district – KO photo by Abid Bhat

By Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat

It is the first time since the 1989 elections in Kashmir that people of Kashmir especially in the North division of the valley are actively involved and interested in the Indian parliamentary elections.


Generally, elections and the electoral process in Kashmir have not been popular. It seems that the scrapping of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution has changed the political discourse and trajectory in the valley. It is worth mentioning that article 370 and 35 of the Indian constitution had provided special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has covert dimensions of social and cultural preservation besides political relation of the state with that of India.

On 5th of August 2019, the Bhartiya Janta Party led by Shri Narendra Modi not only revoked the special status of the state but also took away its statehood. The revocation was followed by a prolonged lull in the valley due to curfews, arrests and a complete communication blackout. The Modi government justified this by saying that the move was motivated by the intention of avoiding civilian casualties.

Among the arrestees was Er. Abdul Rashid Sheikh, who had contested elections and was the people's representative in the state legislature from Handwara Langate. Although his actions and theatrics often caught the attention, however, the antics did not translate to his popularity outside Handwara.

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His arrest too had had little impact, however, some analysts had predicted some impact of it. Dr Adfer Rashid Shah, a Delhi based Sociologists and political commentator on Kashmir, in an informal interaction had noted,“Engineer has a great impact on people and this can be inferred from local gatherings. People in personal gatherings curse people of Kashmir for not doing anything for his release.”

However, In the changed political and administrative set up people had their own logic and calculation behind the silence. In the post revocation scenario, people resigned into silence for various reasons. There have been no mass gatherings, hartals (strikes) protests or other forms of resistance which were otherwise a“normal” routine in Kashmir.

As the parliamentary elections knocked the door in Kashmir this time, the difference was noticeable. The participation of people was palpable. the political. It has been the first time since 1989 when there has been no call for election boycott or forced voting threat.

The frozen political pot in Kashmir was seen melting each day of the election process.

The filing and acceptance of application by Er Abdul Rashid Sheikh for Barahmulla Parliamentary seat started to generate some heat. The campaign by two sons of the jailed contestant not only managed to melt the frozen political pot in North Kashmir but it also started to garner heat in the entire Kashmir region.

The rallies carried out by his two sons received great public support. In the past, the gathering of people in rallies was not something new or conclusive in Kashmir. In the past, there were people who participated in one political rally in the morning and shifted allegiances to another one (of the opponent) in the evening.

However, the present gatherings of people in the rallies of jailed contestants has a different meaning and interpretation. The huge participation of people in support of Er. Rashid in Naidkhai, Sonawari, which is the native Village of sitting National Conference Parliamentarian, has many sociological dimensions. The gathering in the political rally of a jailed person who apparently has no power and influence in native Village of a sitting parliamentarian who overtly has power, connections and influence is quite interesting.

This behavior of the people can be termed as Weberian Affectual Action. In the context of traditional societies, in the light of Almond and Verbs theories, Affectual action can play a pivotal role in politics.

The observations and interactions had impressed that there would be a huge voter turnout for the Baramulla Parliamentary seat and this prediction has proven to be true. The Baramullah constituency saw an all-time high voter turnout of 59%. The boycott belts may have also participated in the electoral process.

This author had met a number of people who were in their forties and said that they were going to cast their vote for the first time. Their number has been higher from the areas who used to abstain or boycott the electoral process.

Whatever may be the outcome of the elections but Er. Rashid has been able to unfreeze the frozen political pot. It has provided a space for the liquid to spill in a productive direction.

Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • Dr . Fayaz Ahmad Bhat is an academician. He is also a contributing writer for Eurasia Review and Foreign Policy


Kashmir Observer

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