Exercising Right To Vote/Not To Vote In Indian Democracy? A Case Of J & K
By Ravi Nitesh
14 May, 2014
Two very important things happened during this election season in J&K. These two things, though were associated with elections, but surely happened in the way that it may pave the future strategies related to J&K. First is the voting boycott by many people and second is the humiliation of those who voted.
As far as the boycott of election is concerned, it is not new, neither for J&K, nor for rest of India. There were many other examples in other states as well, where people denied voting or announced boycott of elections but in those cases, the boycott was due to unfulfilled promises by their leaders, or due to lack of basic amenities in their area, such as in the 2014 LS polls, few residents of Bachhargaon village of Dindori (M.P.) boycotted vote in Mandla constituency due to their unfulfilled demand of bridge over Chakrar river. Another example is of few villages of districts Kullu and Lahaul Spiti (Himachal Pradesh) over their long pending demand of roads and bridges.
Here, in the context of J&K, the boycott by people is clearly a different case. It was done on the basis of their ‘non belief’ in ‘Indian democracy’. They do not want to be part of this system and by showing the boycott, they clearly send a strong message to everyone that people here do not where believe and desire to be with India and its systems. It is to mentioned that approx 43% of voters turned out in last phase of polls, with approx 39.6% turned out in Baramulla constituency compared to 41.84% of 2009 polls. But this decrease was not due to any threat or voluntary not opting votes, because even Laddakh reflected low turn out (65%) in comparison to 2009 polls (71.8%). Though it is true that Baramulla district recorded only 25% turn out. Anantnag and Srinagar constituencies recorded only 27% and 26% turn out respectively.
Now, with this case, there are several questions that comes to my mind. Was this decision of boycott just in the context of bringing any fruitful result? More importantly, was this decision of boycott people’s own desire and was practiced voluntarily?
While brain storming the first question, the justfulness of this boycott, there cannot be any easy answers. cannot be said in one answer. It is very fluid in nature to understand the future consequences of such decisions. While we know that it can be helpful in strengthening their message that they do not believe in democracy, there is also another aspect that it will be viewed normally as it happened earlier and at many other places. Ultimately, the government will be formed and will run. Non voting for a particular reason of K-solution, (that is obviously a main demand), cannot justify hundreds of other basic demands for which people are demanding there. Boycotting cannot bring immediate fruit of K-solution and in addition, it also neglects the 'opportunity' for other, more basic problems. These are the problems of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, environmental problems, unemployment and other basic amenities. Are they not present in Kashmir?
All those who announced and favored boycott, must know that even if they will vote, it no where makes their struggle lesser, they still will be able to demand anything they want for K-solution. Just voting in elections cannot deny them any of their rights on the basis that they became a part of system. Voting was just a simple exercise to practice the demands of all best possible things. Even if few very desired and rightful things remain that voting doesn’t cover, it can be addressed later, at any point of time, as it is still going on. Even if those who did not vote on the basis that they do not believe in Indian democracy, participate in all other democratic functions without hesitation. Voting in India democracy could be done along with disagreement and non belief in Indian democracy. We also understand that voting is given us as a right, and even it is provided by Indian constitution, it is not a compulsion. It simply mean that even ‘non voting right’ is given by the same democracy that provided the right to vote. It again means that even with exercising ‘voting boycott’, you are very much believing and practicing the Indian democratic system.
Now, the announcement of boycott comes from the separatist groups who do not take part in elections, and whose advice is largely practiced by some people. The genuineness of voluntary boycotting the polls is suspicious, because it was also told that people who desired to vote are helpless as they fear their own people. It is to note that even polling stations and police station were attacked by militants.By this way, they have fear from both sides. On one side from the state that has a habit to suppress them and on the other side from their own people. This fear can be of physical or of psychological or both. It was also told that their ‘patriotism’ towards ‘Kashmir’ always get challenged by their own people if they do anything like this. It is possible that many people, then decided to stay away from voting with the wiseful decision of bearing only one side of pressure. However, the incident that happened later, where few persons of Sopore and Baramulla districts, who exercised their right to vote, faced its consequences as the opponents and non believers (in Indian system) stripped them and humiliated them publicly. Is it anywhere a real system that they want? Should a forced boycott be justified anywhere? Doesn’t everyone have their own desire and right to exercise or not to exercise vote? And it is when few constituencies/ districts showed their increased voter turn out.
We must not forget that such things always malign movements, struggles and demands. The larger, we will try to impose our ideas upon people, the greater complications will arise. Voting or non voting is still very much your right that you can decide upon, there must not be anyone else to decide it for you. Even, India and its state functionaries, cannot force you to exercise your right to vote and this should also not be allowed to anyone else.
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
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