Despite terror threats, ballot prevails over bullet in Kashmir

By Farooq Ganderbali
Despite threats by terrorists and boycott calls by separatist leaders, the successful completion of Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir is another slap of Pakistan which has always tried to derail democratic process in the state through overt and covert methods in the last seven decades. People across the state came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise despite terrorists warning them against doing so.
The hope behind this change must get a positive response. All those in authority and in power politics must dedicate themselves to ensuring that the people of Kashmir do not feel betrayed and enraged again. For this amazing sea-change visible across Kashmir during the pulsating election campaign of the past couple of months, the credit goes to the people of the valley.
This is remarkable not only because of the challenges of terror threats, boycott calls, and the recent trend of abysmal turnouts for local bodies elections, but in any case, for a Lok Sabha election in Kashmir—which tends to be of marginal interest at the best of times, unless towering leaders contest.
In north Kashmir where the campaign was pulsating the most was because there were no sign of fear of militants—which was strong in some south Kashmir districts. Indeed, on the eve of the election, Riyaz Naikoo, one of the only two remaining top terror commanders in the field, made a passionate audio appeal addressed to north Kashmir voters, to boycott.
In south Kashmir, where there was less voting, the terrorists killed a BJP leader, Gull Mohammad Mir, who had campaigned for his colleague and BJP’s candidate for southern Kashmir’s Lok Sabah seat in far off villages of the constituency. On Sunday morning, the BJP’s Anantnag vice president was scheduled to visit Pulwama ahead of the last leg of election to the constituency on Monday.
But, late on Saturday, night terrorists stormed his house and shot him multiple times from point blank range. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead. If terrorists and their handlers consider this as their victory, then they live in fool’s paradise.
Democracy is the best antidote to terrorism. Today Kashmiri people in increasing numbers are braving the writ of terrorists and risking their lives in their attempts to marginalize secessionist leaders who count on Pakistan supported terror brigades to enforce their political agenda on the people of Kashmir.
The voters in Kashmir are telling jehadis that they do not wish to be led by the gun any more. Pakistan rulers can no longer claim with the same ease before the international community that pro- Pakistan secessionist outfits, like the Hurriyat, alone represent the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Nor are they likely to be believed, as in the past, when they claimed that India was holding down Kashmiris from joining Pakistan through brute force.