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The Panchayat Election conundrum

The Jammu and Kashmir government has apparently understood the folly it committed by announcing panchayat elections in the state. It is perhaps for this fact that government has called all parties meeting to seek the views of opposition parties. If postponed, it would a great favor to the people of the state as in the given situation holding panchayat elections could be a bloody affair. Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti should have realized it in the very first place before announcing the elections. Mahbooba and her party men are not aliens. They know the ground situation very well. It looks that chief minister gets swayed by views and inputs from a particular coterie instead of taking a direct look at the situation in Kashmir. Kashmir issue is not all about stone-pelting or jobs. Withdrawing cases against stone-pelters or regularizing a few thousand daily labourers would help government is the most misleading interpretation of the Kashmir situation. Kashmir is a killing field where human blood flows without any curb or control. Holding of panchayat elections would only but add fuel to the fire. Militants have vowed to punish any or every person participating in the elections. Militants have threatened to put acid in the eyes of those who contested the panchayat elections in Kashmir. “We have decided to pour acid in the eyes of those who contest the elections. You saw in 2016 how many youths lost their eyes due to pellet guns. This is why we have planned this. We will pour acid into the eyes of the contestant so that he becomes a burden on his or her family”, warned Hizb commander Riyaz Nayak This is in complete contrast to what Hizb said in 2011 Panchayat elections. Syed Salahuddin, chief of Hizbul Mujahideen and militant platform United Jihad Council, said that militants would keep away and would not disturb the elections. He argued that since in Panchayat elections a candidate has not to take oath or swear by his allegiance to the constitution of India, it had no bearing on the issue of Kashmir. It was public nod from militants to the people to participate in the elections. That saw huge participation of people in the elections. But after the conclusion of elections government declared the peaceful conduct of panchayat polls as victory against militants. It was a straight provocation to militants, who later forced many a Panchayat members to resign. On occasions it appears that the government has developed vested interest in keeping the pot boil. Kashmir is yet to recover completely from the unrest that swept the valley after Burhan Wani’s killing. One may find streets somewhat calm but the minds are still restive. It would need just a spark to ignite the fire and fury in the streets. Government should have learnt lesson from the anger people expressed during polling for Srinagar parliamentary seat when just around 2% voters turned out to cast their votes amid heightened tension. The government appeared so helpless that it had to put off the election for Anatnag parliamentary seat indefinitely. The seat is still vacant and government does not muster courage to hold elections there notwithstanding the fact that parliamentary candidates and campaigners do have full protection cover from the government. Panchayat members and sarpanchs, as against this, do not have any security cover. They are left to mend for themselves. That makes them easy targets. Deputy Chief minister Nirmal Singh is reported to have said that the government was aware of the threat and a strategy has been devised to hold elections peacefully. But it is not a case of a day or two. Panchayat members would be vulnerable to threats permanently and round the clock. It could be said with great convenience that government is simply befooling the people and exposing them to dangers of insecurity deliberately. PDP and National Conference, the two main political groupings in the valley, have too many stakes in the election. Their leadership must understand the risks and stakes involved in the move, and impress upon the government not to create a situation in the state that could lead to more bloodletting of their cadres. If government genuinely thinks that the situation has normalized in Kashmir for elections why not to go for parliamentary election first.