Its polls season, y’all people! And Kashmiris are dying already.
In Srinagar, it began with the arrest of people.
Elections in Kashmir are like a mole on a fair face. Depending on where you look at it from it may appear as a wart or a beauty spot. But not both at the same time. Also like a mole they serve hardly any purpose. Except creating havoc, like the death of a polling officer who in his non-election life was an ordinary government employee and in his election life became a target for some loonies.
The government is cautious fielding only “dynamic candidates” in the fray and arresting people as a side business. After seeing low turnover in Anantnag and Shopian it decided that keeping people behind bars may be an effective way of driving them to the polling stations. Which is acceptable in Kashmir, because its not like we bother ourselves with things like human rights, which is Latin for “that thing people on the internet speak about”. Newspapers have reported that over 500 people were arrested because elections were to be conducted. The government has called them “stone pelters and trouble mongers” and the proof against them was that they had been arrested in the previous raid as well. So, it makes a plausible official note that the police is only acting as per prevailing practice. Sometimes, however, the police do come up with crucial photographic evidence too. That is when you see a police officer holding with his right hand a tiny fellow at the end of his paunch and a photograph of the said tiny fellow hurling a stone in his left hand. You can see the police man smiling at the genius of having proved left hand side is equal to right hand side.
The polls also came to Kashmir, like interlocutors did a few years ago, amid restrictions and curfews. 30th as expected was a holiday. The security throughout the city had been beefed up, because if there is one thing that will entice the people of Kashmir to come out of homes and vote it will be paramilitary troopers.
In the run up to the polls the usual campaigns had been extraordinarily dull, mainly because Farooq sahib had a sore throat. There was some news of a certain politician letting it go with some hip “Bhand paether” but who counts that as entertainment any more? And who votes for that? The elections have been a singularly tough time for Indian political parties. A minister who is otherwise famous for his middle finger and insider knowledge (like knowing that some other politicians have ten wives) had to rough up a youth. The young man was criminally involved in waving some documents at a rally. Foolish, what use could papers have been at a rally? Could he not just have left them at home? I say, he was asking for it! This not being a “sadak-bijli-pani” election (read, State Legislative elections) the local politicians had no statements, a.k.a. promises, to make. These elections are a bigger game of bigger and badder things. So Mufti Syeed decided to go straight for the jackpot and declared that he will solve the Kashmir issue. However, we learnt from Geelani Sahib that Mufti Syeed had claimed that earlier too but if given 40 seats, which sounds like a rundown DD Kashir adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. Anything works in Kashmir; it’s not like anyone listens or cares.
By evening when some people had voted, some hadn’t, and some protested the day through, one young man was killed. Because the paramilitary had had nothing to do the whole day it would have been a shame to let a day of boycott and sporadic protests to pass without at least one death. Something to show in the name of security! Like homework not done. In the curfew that followed on May 1, the forces did nothing much during the day, and just as the protesters dispersed in evening they emerged like a gang embarrassed school bullies who had lost a match and went berserk on the pitch. Breaking window panes and car wind-shields. Because if there is any way to pacify a mob it is by breaking the windows of their homes.
Nothing good is expected from these elections. Not at least by this writer. Not tonight. And last I checked pessimism isn’t sedition.