Seven hundred and nine -- yes that is right. Just 709 voters polled at the Sringar-Budgam constituency where re-polls were held on Thursday. The voter percentage was a meagre 2 per cent and history had been created. This is the lowest ever polling percentage.
Just 709 people out of the 35,169 voted thus recording the lowest polling percentage ever. This indicates a clear collapse of the system. The Election Commission which had been advised by the Home ministry not to conduct the polls in Srinagar as the situation was not conducive went ahead. The EC said after the re-poll in Srinagar that although the voter percentage was low, they were happy that it went ahead trouble free.
This meagre polling percentage has been reported just a week after a 7 per cent was recorded a week ago at Srinagar during the by-elections. The situation was chaotic and several persons lost their lives in violence that day. The ECI's answer itself is a failure. Ground level intelligence reports state that the voters did not come out because they were scared.
The government in Kashmir has failed the people. The voter was unsure about the level of security that had been provided at the polling booths and going by the incidents that took place last week, their confidence was shattered. It must be recalled that the polling percentage in Srinagar during the 2014 polls stood at 66 percentage.
Moreover, the ECI too is to be blamed here. They cited constitutional obligation as the reason to hold the elections. When the Home Ministry warned them against the polls, the ECI said that constitutional obligation mandates that the polls be held before April 16.
A wake-up call:
Experts say that this should serve as a wake-up call for both the centre and the state government. The postponement of the Anantnag by-poll is also an indication that the state government is clearly not in control of the situation.
Security experts who monitored the clashes on Srinagar last week said that it was clear that the dispensation was not prepared. The protestors went on a frenzy and clearly outnumbered the security personnel. In some quarters, people even asked if the dispensation in J&K intentionally decided to play the role of a mute spectator.
While Srinagar is one case, one must also look at the larger picture. Pakistan, on one hand, continues to fund violence in Kashmir and on the other hand Mehbooba has not managed to break the ice and calm the protestors. The situation in the Valley has gone out of her control.
The problem if one were to analyse it began in July after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. What the state government failed to act upon was crucial intelligence that suggested that a major unrest was being planned. Wani's death was only an excuse for the separatists to bring the Valley to a standstill, officials point out while adding that the unrest was planned much in advance.