Good turnout in polls shows J&K’s faith in democracy

On the face of it, the election of radical leader, Engineer Rashid, from Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency may appear as an unsettling development, but a closer look reveals that the separatists joining the democratic process and swearing allegiance to the Constitution is a welcome change. It must be welcomed because bringing radical elements under the umbrella of national mainstream politics augurs well for democracy. His election, however, reflects deep public unrest over the unfulfilled promises of the government. This needs redressal. Rashid, who is currently in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, facing charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in an alleged terror-funding case, defeated former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Rashid became involved in secessionist politics as a teenager. Though he was arrested several times by the J&K Police on suspicion of aiding terrorists, evidence never emerged to support the allegations. This was the first election in J&K since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. A reasonably good turnout in the elections reflected public faith in democracy. The people who turned out to vote show that, despite the widespread sense of alienation, there is a realisation that the democratic process, rather than the gun, has the potential to bring remedies to political and social travails. The representatives of the two leading political dynasties of the region – Omar Abdulla and Mehbooba Mufti – faced rejection by the voters. The incident-free election in the valley marks a realisation among the Kashmiris that they can be part of the governance of the country that is theirs as much as it is of any other Indian. This is despite considerable anger over the Centre’s decision to convert the state into a union territory.