For each action, there is equal and opposite reaction says Newton’s law. In Kashmir, every uprising had an equal reaction too. When government forces retaliated after the killing of popular militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016—which sparked an uprising that led to the killing of more than 100 civilians and injured many—the elections were far far away. Politics changes—no doubt—but do people tend to forget, and move on in Kashmir? It doesn’t seem so.
In today’s third phase of Indian general elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the Anantnag district of Anantnag constituency in south Kashmir went for polls; other three districts of the constituency: Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian, will go for polls in next two phases. But today’s voter turnout suggests: The ‘South Remembers’, what has been going on—from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a regional shoulder, allying with Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form state government in 2014, to civilian uprising 2016, and the ‘Operation All-Out’ from last summer—every night of raids and continuous shutdown; The South Remembers.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, voter turnout for Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency was 28.8%, raising a percent higher than 2009 polls. Surprisingly, Anantnag district had recorded the highest voter turnout of 37.76% in past parliamentary elections, followed by Kulgam at 36.68%, Shopian 20.43%, and Pulwama only 6.32%.
Though, this time, in the backdrop of continuous violence, the same Anantnag district recorded merely 13.6% of voter turnout—sliding down the slope by the decrease of 24.1% as compared to 2014. The reasons of this drastic stoop are the headline for last few years: The rise in militancy; and every passing incident of violence, killings and loss of accountability within the given political setup, only defined the benchmarks for people more firmly to resist the mainstream.
This election strongly hit the PDP—who once used to flaunt southerners as their forte—for its politics as well as existence. Former Chief Minister and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti is the candidate for the parliamentary seat of the south, while Indian National Congress’s G. A. Mir is the major opponent. However, looking at the numbers, the margins between the winner and the loser is likely to be lesser, backed by vehement election boycott.
One can say that the south remembers: the memory of loss hasn’t faded, and the beginning of afresh hasn’t begun.