“Candidates put up by the PAGD are immediately whisked away to “secure locations” in the name of security and confined to those “secure locations”. They are not allowed to canvass, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes,” Dr Farooq Abdullah, the head of the Peoples’ Alliance on Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) wrote a letter to Jammu and Kashmir’s State Election Commissioner, K K Sharma. “The current state of affairs in the realm of security is blatantly oriented towards providing security to a select few and confining others. This comes across more like an attempt to interfere in the democratic process than any real concern for the wellbeing of the contestants.”
The letter was sent barely a week ahead of the first of the 8-phase polls scheduled on November 29. Conveying in too many words that the evolution of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir has been “a bloodied journey soaked in the blood of thousands of workers”, Dr Abdullah has insisted: “It is a desecration of those sacrifices when the very conflict that consumed their lives is used as an alibi to customize democracy.”
However, it is the “strange and unique feature” that Dr Abdullah has mentioned in his letter that fits in Kashmir’s Jumhooriyat debate. The democracy in Kashmir has been a persistent slogan that found strange manifestations to exhibit itself. In fact, all the elections in Jammu and Kashmir had this “strange and unique feature”. What makes things awkwardly interesting this time, however, is that there is a wedge between the central government – the real powerhouse, and the parties that represented it in Kashmir, till date. The central government is keen to do things directly in Kashmir bypassing the local stake-holding in political space.
In this “customised democracy”, as PAGD sees these elections, the police are extending security cover to the candidate right at the moment he or she files the nomination. The security is being extended by physically removing them to security clusters where they are being fed and prevented from moving out. Once in, there is no possibility of them moving out because the security apparatus says they are the potential targets of the militants. Ideally, they should have been given the security so that they can move and interact with the people.
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