By Heeba Din:
The last time my father voted was more than two decades back – in 1987, the last time I voted, well that hasn’t come yet. I am yet to cast a vote and a whole of my generation, the ones who were born and raised during the 90s, wouldn’t probably have either. Now this may seem like a generalisation, but when you have never seen that blue ink mark on the fingers of anyone whom you know and the only memory that you have of elections coincide with the dead calm on streets, holidays for your father and with the distant echo, “elections hai, hartal hogi, elections ke baad milte hain” the generalisation doesn’t seem so inaccurate.
Now that the election fever is on in Kashmir and this year seeing a record number of voting from a part of the country that plates elections and boycott together, I cannot help but think about how this democratic process has skipped to impress a whole generation in Kashmir. I probably will never vote nor did I vote this time around. To the democratic pundits this may seem a sheer violation and waste of rights bestowed upon by the honourable constitution and to the advocates of change this may seem like a cynical attitude, where one wants the change and yet would refrain from bringing the change. But here is my point, what is the point of putting democratic elections in a place that is an ongoing contested dispute in itself? As I try to wrap my head around the history of Kashmir, Kashmir elections, boycotts, the plebiscite that hasn’t yet taken place, the human rights violations, and the whole generation that associates normalcy with men in arms patrolling the streets, I ask myself what is the meaning of elections in this part of the world, when the basic underlying sentiment of azaadi still persists on ground.
With a prolonged conflict like that of Kashmir, the casualty doesn’t come in form of just blood – human life, aspirations, dreams, development, all form a part of it and with unemployment scaling new heights, every opportunity to an economically safe future sounds more appealing than a two decade long stalemate. These elections have been a watershed moment in the history of Kashmir’s election and boycott, with its huge voter turnout. And with voters coming out to vote for development and employment, the trend doesn’t validate the ‘democracy’ Kashmiris are being lured into but ironically boils down to the situation the Kashmiri’s are trapped in. The dilemma of wanting a secure future and yet to keep fighting the long battle against forced occupation is what I ask myself as a young Kashmiri.
However, the half widows, families of disappeared people, mothers who have lost sons and wives who lost their husbands wouldn’t look for employment or development from these elections or the ones to come. So, who wins the dance of democracy when it comes to them? With a long list of unending questions, dilemmas, and wishes, I declare myself a non voter until I find something to vote for.