DDC elections in J&K: Why the ballot may never beat the bullet in Kashmir

The fresh wave of DDC elections has drawn flak from the localites, instead of involving them in the political process

Almost every problem has a solution, but every issue may not find a suitable resolution in the times we live in. One of the most volatile territorial issues in the world is probably the Kashmir issue, which has remained unresolved for over seven decades.

Since the partition of British India, the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes Ladakh has been the flash point between the two arch rivals. Both India and Pakistan have claimed the territory and fought nearly three wars over the region. During the last 73 years, several separatist movements and armed struggles have continued in Kashmir and the locals have taken part in both peaceful and violent agitations against the government and forces on this side of the border.

In the last 30 years, the focus has majorly been on the Indian-controlled Kashmir. After the abrogation of article 370 and 35A in August 2019 that gave special rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the issue has gained popularity in the UN and across many western countries. A lot has been said and done since the last 1 year, but the core issue has probably remained unattended.

The recent wave of DDC elections has been seen as a ground-breaking move to involve the local residents into the political process, especially in the districts of Kashmir valley. The aim is to take the focus away from what has transpired in the last 30 years to build a new Kashmir, where ballot will overpower the bullet. The representatives of the center in Kashmir have reiterated that the Kashmiris are leaving the armed and non-violent struggle for an independent state to fully integrate with India.

At this juncture, one would like to raise a question over the center’s claim and look deeply into the ground realities and the involvement of the residents in the current process. While one cannot deny the participation of the candidates who are fighting in their constituencies, the question is mainly about the common masses. Are they taking this new wave of elections on the same lines?

The answer to this question is not in affirmative. The locals are skeptical about the authenticity of the DDC elections and the constant efforts to showcase the unreal side of the conflict-torn region. There is also a belief that the elections cannot resolve the core issue and put an end to the sufferings of the people in the long run. The percentage of voting is a testament to this fact, especially in the most hostile districts of the valley.

It is difficult to think otherwise as the elections have been taking place since decades, but the people in general have never been optimistic of getting favorable results from this process, which was also evident back in 1986-87. The locals just don’t feel connected at the ground level and the social media has been abuzz with criticism of those joining the political process. Some of the candidates have even been laughed at for making exaggerated promises.

Thus, one can arguably conclude that there is no possibility of ballot replacing the bullet anytime soon in the valley. The young generation has continued to take up the arms against the presence of security forces and the locals have kept backing them time and again, making a case to study, analyze and address the core issue in the larger spectrum.

Srinivasan Vedam

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