Let's Salute The People Of Kashmir Valley

21 November 2008
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Kashmir – the land of Chinars, the land of Sufism. The hideous militancy that has engulfed the valley hides the once thriving culture and long line of history that was prevalent in the beautiful valley. Kashmir is even believed to have been mentioned in the Mahabharata. Kashmir Polls Pics However, now it is once again witness to the modern day Mahabharata we know as elections. The poll season brings up all kinds of sights in modern India including rallies, clashing supporters and what not. Just a couple of months ago, an election would have been unthinkable in the valley, it was beset by people chanting azadi and gleefully rubbishing the Indian flag. It had lead many to wonder if the Kashmiri people would ever take part in something like a democratic elections, and when the separatists too began chanting a boycott elections slogan, nobody thought that the common man in the valley would defy the prevailing force in the valley to take part in an election exercise being touted as being orchestrated by the ‘occupying Indian state’. So it must have been with some trepidation that India watched as the state of Jammu and Kashmir set for a seven phase election, there must have been murmurs about a rejection of elections by the people just to spite India etc. But all of that changed once the first phase of polls started. Perhaps, India shouldn’t have been worried so much after all, if Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti’s election rallies are anything to go by, the ordinary Kashmir is still ready to make his or her voice heard through the ballot box too. After all, guns can make a noise, but the ballot actually speaks for the people. Elections in Kashmir are always fraught with danger, but this time the high voter turnout surprised all. What is more, a large number of women are coming out not only to vote, but also as candidates, going door to door to campaign. In a state where a strict code was enforced for women after the advent of militancy this is indeed a welcome step and could be an indicator of a new phase. Although there are six phases of the election left, Kashmir has already reiterated its faith in the power of the ballot. The critics may continue their naysaying but we believe that actions speak louder than words. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, like the rest of their fellow countrymen, know that the development of their society lies in the day to day needs. Bijli, sadak, paani is needed as much in Kashmir as in the rest of India. The years of militancy may have succeeded in alienating Kashmir from the country but it echoes what the rest of India wants by voting for the basic needs which are demanded by every citizen regardless of whether he lives in Kashmir or Kanyakumari. Perhaps this is a wake up call for both the state and the central governments, those who claim to speak on behalf of the Kashmiri people need to take a long, hard look and ask themselves if they might have denied the Kashmiris their basic needs in the quest for some lofty ideal. It is time for introspection by the Indian state and its people too. No doubt, it has made many glaring mistakes in the past, but here is a chance to bring back normalcy to the crown of India. And who knows, if peace comes this state could be the finest in India.