Jammu and Kashmir is in the midst of the five phased Assembly elections that began on November 25 extending till December 20 with a record number of people defying a boycott called by separatists and exercising their right to vote.
In the first two phases, polls have been held for 33 seats in the 81-member Assembly and the vote count would be held on December 23. Amidst the polls, militant strikes have struck the state on Friday killing 21 people including 11 security officials in an attack on an army camp in the border town of Uri. The attacks are widely seen as attempts to sabotage the polls. Prime Minister Modi had denounced the attacks calling it ‘desperate’ efforts to ‘derail the atmosphere of hope and goodwill’. Home Minister Rajnath Singh too has pointed fingers at Pakistan for its role in the terror attacks demanding an immediate ending to the misery and blamed Pakistan for providing shelter to the terrorists.
Jammu and Kashmir has been under coalition governments for the last 14 years with nine governments and three spells of President’s rule during the period. The region has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan leading to conflicts and wars and a long history of political rivalry. The military control, wars, separatist revolts and constant intimidations from the terrorist groups,together with the continuous infiltrations have destroyed not only the peace and reconciliation efforts but also made the lives of the people miserable. The heavy voter turnout is seen as their answer towards the brutalities they face and a victory of democracy.
Modi who slammed the attacks as a way to destabilize Kashmir, has launched an extensive campaign with a goal of gaining the maximum number of votes, mainly from the Hindu majority Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh regions. He had made promises eleven years ago during a Kashmir rally about the return of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat approaches that raised the hope of people. It is yet to be seen how the concerned authorities would handle the sensitive issue. For the time being, the BJP is unlikely to aggravate the Kashmir issue because it has its eye on the looming election results in the valley. But instead of playing the blame games and striving to implement the manifestos in the saffron agenda, focus should be on constructive talks and steps should be taken not only to curb terrorism and improve the ties with its neighbouring state but also to erase the six decade long pain and suffering of the people. This would surely reinforce the democracy and pave way for achieving peace and harmony in the region.