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Who wins if democracy loses in Kashmir?

By Sheikh Qayoom,

Srinagar : A black Friday that left 21 people, including eight army men, dead in a string of terror attacks in Kashmir has shaken an administration that patted itself till the other day on the smooth, incident-free completion of the first two rounds of the five-phased state assembly elections.

The fact that the day’s bloody violence began when six heavily armed guerrillas entered an army field regiment camp near the Uri border town in Baramulla district highlights the chinks in the security grid.

A lieutenant colonel, a junior commissioned officer and six soldiers as well as three policemen were killed by the intruders before they were gunned down by quick response teams (QRTs) inside the army camp.

Another guerrilla attack occurred in summer capital Srinagar where two rebels attacked a police check post before they were killed in a gunfight.

Two civilians were killed in Pulwama district in a guerrilla grenade attack.

Kashmir Inspector General of Police (IGP) Abdul Ghani Mir said the two slain guerrillas in Srinagar city belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit.

These deadly attacks have occurred ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Srinagar Dec 8 and polls in Baramulla and Pulwama districts Dec 9. Polling began in Jammu and Kashmir Nov 25 and it ends Dec 20. The votes will be counted Dec 23.

Over 70 percent voter turnout marked the first two phases of the state assembly polls in Kashmir as three phases – two in the Valley and one in the Jammu region – are still to take place.

The one question that brooks answer in the aftermath of Friday’s bloody violence is who wins if democracy loses?

A day after the terror attacks, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s poll rally in Magam town of Beerwah constituency Saturday witnessed a large public attendance. It seems people have decided to use their democratic right to vote even under the shadow of violence.

Security has been tightened in Srinagar city and other places to ensure that the prime minister’s visit Monday passes off peacefully, but the fallout of this unprecedented violence on the poll campaign and subsequent voting in the remaining phases of elections needs to be closely watched.

In fact, some politicians have either cancelled their poll rallies Saturday or have rescheduled them.

Traditionally, urban centres have seen low voter turnout ever since the ongoing separatist violence started here in early 1990s.

Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has blamed the media for hyping the high voter turnout that prompted guerrillas to instill fear among the voters.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])


Jammu & Kashmir