Indian Occupied Kashmir witnessed the first-ever polls after the revocation of article 370 during the last quarter of 2020. District Development Council (DDC) elections were the first local elections after article 370. The Polling exercise took place in eight phases. Polling began during the last week of November while continued till mid-December. The polling was for 280 seats spread over the Hindu-majority Jammu and the Muslim-majority Kashmir. The results declared BJP claiming over 70 seats, mostly in Jammu, and three seats in Kashmir. Other than BJP, there were many independent candidates and the Gupkar Alliance. While addressing, the BJP’s leader Narendra Damodardas Modi very enthusiastically acknowledged the results as the indicators of strengthened democracy. According to Modi, the “DDC polls have written a new chapter” for Jammu & Kashmir.
The Gupkar Alliance (People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration- PAGD) is a political alliance with many mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir, aimed at restoring the special status of Kashmir. It secured more than 110 seats, including over 70 in the Kashmir Valley. Vice president of the Alliance Mehbooba Mufti, accused BJP of abducting independents while also calling BJP sole losers. Mocking PM Modi’s remarks on democracy she tweeted. “This isn’t dance but death of democracy in J&K.”
Kashmir’s struggle started way earlier than the 1940s. For the past many decades Kashmir has never been ruled by Kashmiris. The second last quarter of 2019 witnessed the greatest development of the decade in the Indian Occupied Kashmir’s struggle. The extremist BJP leadership drafted the annulment plan secretly and revoked the special status of Kashmir. The special treatment of New Delhi towards Kashmir was protected by the article 370 of the Indian constitution which gave Kashmir some autonomy over a few matters. BJP led government revoked that article earlier in August 2019. Following the change in the status of the disputed territory, they put Kashmir under lockdown, considering the circumstances and possible resistance. This was not just enough to materialize the BJP dream. For that, they also introduced new policies to incorporate the influx of Non-Kashmiris in the disputed territory. The pleasure of being called “Kashmiri” once only belonged to the real heirs or true Kashmiris (Kashmiri by blood) but that’s not the case anymore. Many Non-Kashmiris were granted Kashmiri citizenship based on the newly devised eligibility criteria. This led to the influx of new entries to the Kashmir Clan.
Voter turnout was low in DDC elections mainly due to COVID and the fact that Kashmiris are not happy with the changes being observed over the past year. A 65-year-old Urdu-speaking man from Chewa village, Khizar Mohammad Butt while waiting in queue outside the polling station expressed his views. He said, “I’m voting for better roads, water, and electricity in my area, but I will not support the BJP”. This shows the desire of the Kashmiris to seek development in the region while also showcasing their “Kashmiriat”.
Prime Minister Modi says that the polls are the representation of democracy. While claiming this all he completely forgot about the decisions BJP made earlier during August 2019. “Does majority rule mean that majorities simply rule? Or does genuine democracy require that minorities be granted institutional protection to prevent their voices from being swamped?” The abrogation of article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir exposed Modi’s democracy to multiple questions. Modi’s leadership wisely covers its actions in Kashmir under the umbrella of development and the social uplifting of the region further claiming it all to be democratic but none of it is democratic at all. It all goes against the sentiments of Kashmiris and Kashmiriat. “Is it really a new era for Kashmir?” To sum it all no doubt it is a new phase for Kashmir, not filled with developments but disasters. BJP exploited democracy in a very undemocratic way.