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A colourful spring of democracy in Srinagar

Coming out of the shadow of violence has not been easy for Kashmir
12:00 AM May 16, 2024 IST | BHARAT RAWAT
a colourful spring of democracy in srinagar
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13th  May was the first general election in Kashmir valley after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, and the voter turnout, turned out to be surprisingly positive. A record 38% voter turnout was witnessed in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, which, under the redrawn segment post delimitation, now contains assembly segments of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Budgam and Shopian districts. This has been the highest polled percentage in the last four decades, a far cry from the dismal 5% turnout in 1989 elections (then Srinagar was won by NC uncontested, Baramulla and Anantnag recorded 5% voting).

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What was even more pointing to the changed times and circumstances on ground in Kashmir, was that there was no call for any election boycott by separatists and interestingly no untoward incident was reported from any polling booth across the breadth of the now widened constituency base of Srinagar. The ‘festival of democracy’ was celebrated in all it spring colours in the heart of valley.

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Adding to this fervour was that no booth recorded any zero turnout, in fact, surprisingly the highest turnout came from erstwhile separatist hotbeds of the valley, pointing to a pleasantly positive turnaround in the sentiment of the people and the situation on the ground. With record tourism numbers showing up for the past few years and much developmental work being done on ground, the momentum to move ahead in the changed times has only been given a push with dividends of peace being to the last man in the queue.

And it is this momentum that needs to be continued for ensuring the harvest of reconciliation and amity across J&K. Tranquillity is not the labour of a single day or man, it would need the collective efforts of the system that be, the political or bureaucratic, and the common people to work in tandem to pick the fruits of peace and progress.

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People coming out to vote in such large numbers also exhibited their faith the democratic systems of India and the constitutional values of the republic. This was in contrast to the fear and suffocation of the peak militancy years when the ballot would be threatened by the imported bullet and democratic systems threaded a slow agonizing pace.

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With 24 candidates in the fray this time around compared to 12 in the last general election (2019), even this pointed to the robustness, strength of democratic systems of India and the faith of common people in Kashmir, in believing and participating in this festival. Coming out of the shadow of violence has not been easy for generations in Kashmir, especially with rouge neighbours trying all they could to keep fuelling the flames of violence

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in the valley, this turnaround on ground and enabling the expression of the democratic will of common people at the grassroots level has taken a lot of effort within the valley and needs to be sustained. The dividends of peace need to be harvested by both the common people and administrative machinery, enabling both to work together for making up the lost ground Kashmir valley, missed during the past decades of violent turmoil and terrorism.

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With even the once hotbeds of militancy now coming out in large numbers and putting their trust in the democratic credentials of our country India, political representatives must ensure that there is no breach of this trust and that the people are provided the badly needed governance, accountability and development they have been seeking.

Interestingly, according to ground reports, in most of the areas it was the youth and the first-time voters who displayed more enthusiasm in exercising their democratic franchise, pointing the positive way Kashmir has moved on to, since in the coming years it will be this new generation shaping the way Kashmir thinks, acts and grows into. It is this generation that the policy planners in the administration and the political leader will have to keep into mind while tailoring their approach towards the common people on ground.

The past has to be relegated to where it is, and the present has to be intertwined with the future with the governance systems realizing that the changed scenario demands a more humane approach, not allowing past labels destroy more generations on ground and allowing for a better today and tomorrow.

A word of appreciation for everyone, who made the ‘festival of democracy’ vibrant and colorful; electoral staff and the security personnel who ensured an atmosphere of peace, calm on ground, NGO’s of the valley for voting awareness programme, common people who were no more afraid of displaying their inked finger to cameras and who exhibited their trust in the democratic values of the world’s largest democracy, India.

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