Addressing a press conference in Srinagar on August 25, 2016, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that the five per cent of Kashmiris inciting violence in the state since July are "anti-nationals" and not legitimate protestors with legitimate grievances. "You have to differentiate between people who want a dialogue and those who exploit young people to throw stones", she added as the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh drew vicarious pleasure watching the angry media persons.
Mahbooba's statement evoked widespread ridicule. The former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah also responded.
He lashed out at Mahbooba for "adding fuel to the fire rather than dousing the flames" by her statements. "On one hand there is continuous curfew for the last 50 days and the whole valley is shut, government offices, schools are closed and trade is also shut, on the other hand the chief minister is saying that this is being done by just five per cent of people.
"If five per cent of people have wounded the state as well as the central government, then these five per cent are more powerful than all the rest. Then only these five per cent should control the situation.
Rather than dousing the fire, we are adding more fuel to the fire by such statements. If we say that it is only five per cent, then people say fine we will show you this five per cent and then they organise the protests in much larger numbers," he said.
The April 9 polls have demolished many a myth. Only 5% voted. Ninety-five people stayed away. They responded positively to the call of the resistance leadership. The figures must have left the Chief Minister red faced. The Kashmiris made a very strong political statement. In three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal, 95% people are anti-nationals, as per Mahbooba's yardstick.
The 2008 elections witnessed massive participation of the people. The then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh responded by declaring the `separatists' irrelevant. "Majority of Kashmiris have participated in the democratic process and thus reposed their faith in Indian democracy," he said in a statement.
A similar statement was issued after 2014 elections when people participated in the exercise contrary to the expectations of the resistance camp. However, former Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayed was the only person to issue a sensible statement. He thanked Hizbul Mujahideen and Pakistan for "facilitating peaceful" elections.
This was a significant statement. Mufti Sayed, who headed the Home Ministry of government of India in 1990 believed peaceful elections were not possible without Pakistan and Hizbul Mujahideen. He conveyed that half a million regular troops and an equal number of para-military forces, police, SPOs, VDCs and other non-state actors had no role in ensuring peace during the elections.
And, why did the people vote in 2008 and 2014? The local journalists talked to the voters in every tehsil in Kashmir. "We stand for Azadi. We are voting for roads, drains and latrines," they made clear. Even the government admitted on the floor of the legislative assembly that the people had given mandate for Bijli (electricity), Pani (water) and Sadak (roads) only.
The government has always used elections to dilute the gravity of the Kashmir dispute. However, this time no such statement was issued. How could India sell participation of 5% people in elections? This time, they put the democratic process on hold in `national' interest. But whose victory is this? Who has turned irrelevant in contemporary Kashmir? The pro-accession politicians have succeeded in getting only 5% people to the booths. The resistance leadership, on the other hand has managed to keep 95% people away from the elections notwithstanding the curbs on their movement.
This time 95% people conveyed that they do not need roads, water or electricity. But, what do they actually want?
Poll boycott has never succeeded in Kashmir except in 1989 when the fear of gun kept the people away from booths. In early 70s, the leader of masses, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah called for election boycott without much success. But this time, the boycott was almost total. A group of scribes talked to a cross section of the society after the Srinagar poll to know the exact reasons for the boycott. The Indian media has ascribed the reason to growing alienation. But this is not the reason. There is hardly anybody left in Kashmir to be won over by India. "India stands totally exposed today. We sought withdrawal of pellet guns but New Delhi refused. The way they have pumped bullets into the eyes of minors reflects their ruthlessness. All doubts stand cleared. Let them kill us, let them blind us. We will not seek withdrawal of guns or draconian laws. They have been treating Kashmir as a colony and a colony can be managed by a manager. Why go for elections." This is the crux of the exercise undertaken by the scribes.