Eyes On Brewing Anger, Separatists Calls For Poll Boycott In Kashmir

26 October 2014
The Hindustan Times
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Despite voting percentage showing upward trend in the valley, separatists in Kashmir on Sunday decided to stick to boycott politics and described the timing of polls 'a divergent tactics to shift attention from flood disaster.' 'The poll announcement was unexpected and is no way any alternative to the plebiscite,' said hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, a day after the election commission of India announced five phase polls, starting from November 25 in the state. Geelani alleged that holding polls is like 'rubbing salt to the injuries of people of Kashmir'. 'The priority should have been the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people who are still shelterless with harsh season setting in,' he added. The separatists have decided to continue with boycott politics but no formal campaign has been announced so far. Jammu and Kashmir, particularly its capital summer Srinagar, sees increasing participation in polls despite militant threats and boycott campaign. From single digit turnout in 2002, Srinagar saw 20% turnout in the 2008 assembly polls, while the state registered around 55% poll percentage, highest in the past two decades of the separatist movement and militancy. However, even moderate separatists have decided not to join the fray and called for a boycott. Moderate Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq described the polls as 'futile exercise with no bearing on the larger issue of Kashmir'. 'The announcement vindicates that the government of India wants to divert the attention of world community from the ground crises in Kashmir. Now all the focus will be shifted to the election conduction with the flood victims again left to suffer,' said the Mirwaiz. Separatists will also try to cash in on the anger and disillusionment infused by floods that left 70% of Srinagar marooned and around 6.5 lakh stranded for days together. Anger is running high among people over slugging relief and rehabilitation programme in the valley. 'On the one hand, New Delhi raises hollow slogans of rehabilitation and on the other announces polls dates. How come would they prove to the world that they care for people of Kashmir?' said Farooq, who tried to reach out to flood-affected people in big way during the September floods and promised to construct around 100 houses. 'Polls no way could be the substitute of right to self determination. We ask people to reject these polls and stay away from this process,' he said.