Tapping Our Democratic Consciousness

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THE Lok Sabha elections 2024 have been significant for J&K since they mark a transition of the Kashmir society from being anti-democratic with expression of grievances, into a society that is pro-democratic, looking forward to peace possible only through democratic consciousness.

THE Lok Sabha Elections 2024 mark the first general elections in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019 by the Narendra Modi government.

The elections have been significant in many ways. They actually mark a transition of the Kashmir society from an anti-democratic expression of grievances against the state and its institutions to the pro-democratic expression signifying reposition of faith in the democratic system.

The overwhelming participation of the people in the electoral process, particularly from the areas once considered to be a hotbed of extremist ideology, is quite an encouragement. The voter turnout has beaten the records of the last 34 years.

Both political commentators and the government in Srinagar and New Delhi tend to believe that the overwhelming participation of Kashmiris in the Lok Sabha elections were held without any boycott calls from terrorist groups. The undercurrent, however, suggests that it was a collective conscious decision of the people of Kashmir to take recourse in the democratic process and make their voices heard. That means the voters would have still come out in large numbers to cast their votes if there were a boycott call from terrorists. This is something very significant. Going for a war against the might of the state was not a conscious decision in 1990. It was actually an emotional outburst conveniently exploited by the Pakistani deep state. The people got carried away by the terrorist adventurism greatly influenced by the defeat of the erstwhile USSR from Afghanistan and its dismemberment.

The socio-political and economic insecurities shaped the dynamics of the violent conflict and the waging of war with the state in 1990. The inception of armed militancy marked the transition from a peaceful, tolerant Kashmir society to the one marred by bloodshed and extremism. There was this misnomer to achieve lasting peace through violence. Larger majority had no idea of the consequences of the violence and violent turmoil.

After 30 years of bloodshed there is this realisation that democratic culture was the panacea to all the problems, no matter how fragile and weak the democratic institutions might be.

So there is this conscious decision that true peace can only be achieved through democratic transformation of consciousness.  The most interesting observation is that this transformation from anti-democratic to pro-democratic is again driven by the same set of grievances – the socio-political and economic insecurities. The overwhelming participation as such could not be seen as an endorsement of the government’s Kashmir policy. The improved security and law and order environment in last few years, has, of course, greatly helped in strengthening the belief system.

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