The electioneering has remained a comparatively peaceful affair since 2014. There were not many attacks on the people contesting polls, during the process. It was repeated by the Panchayat and ULB polls that the governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration held even as the main political parties, the NC and the PDP stayed away. The peaceful elections, however, did not see any participation and most of the contestants either won without any kind of opposition or managed to get these berths by getting friends and relatives to vote for them.
Even as the Lok Sabha polls 2019 have got into second of the seven phases, the situation on ground has remained, by and large, peaceful. There was not any attack on the political class that has moved deep into the villages. While there is massive deployment of the police and paramilitary forces, seemingly the insurgents do not see a priority in attacking the political workers.
In the first phase of the polling, Baramulla voted to the tune of almost 35 percent. This has been slight dip over the region’s earlier record in 2014, but this also is a fact that the people are less interested in Lok Sabha polls in comparison to the state assembly elections. However, given the massive debate on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir’s special position within the union of India, the polling percentage is lesser.
For the entire day of polling, no untoward incident was reported. People came out as happily as they could to exercise their right to vote. And a huge section did not want to be counted in the EVMs. In one polling station in Kupwara, there was such a huge crowd that the voting continued till 9:30 pm. There was no coercion anywhere either for voting or against it. However, there were instances of a series of stone pelting in certain areas which seemingly was the outcome of local rivalries within the contestants. In a few of these incidents, some civilians were caught in between and eventually landed in the hospitals. SMHS reported at least three cases in which pellets were used on possible voters, one of them was badly injured.
Minutes after the poll authorities announced that the first phase was peaceful and better, the bad news came from Kupwara where a young seventh grader was hit by a shell apparently fired by somebody from the security grid. He died later in Kupwara hospital. Another person was injured and is still in the hospital. The first blood on the first phase renewed the debate that the peaceful essentially does not mean the people in Kashmir would not lose lives. Was this incident avoidable and how huge was the action by the stone pelting crowd that it required massive use of force is subject matter of an investigation that nobody knows will be conducted or not. The security grid should have been slightly more responsible in its reaction. State Police Chief Dilbagh Singh has genuinely rewarded the CRPF man for staying alert to a weapon snatching bid.
The security grid is usually getting out of control at most crucial moments. In 2014 Lok Sabha poll in Srinagar, when the day was about to pass peacefully, they opened fire in Nawa Kadal and killed Bashir Ahmad Bhat. In the by-polls in 2017, as many as eight civilians were killed and one voter was converted into a human shield. This led to the cancellation of polls in south Kashmir. Right now when Kashmir is going to undergo four more phases of polls, the ubiquitous security grid must exhibit restraint. It is in the interest of democracy they are deployed to protect.