The streets of the Handwara town are adorned by banners and posters, blue, green and red. Presenting a deserted look, with shops closed down and the CRPF personnel patrolling the streets. However this silence is defied as we move few feet away from the main chowk, the chorus is coming out from premises of the Girls Higher Secondary School, people pheran clad have lined there to cast their votes.
These were the scenes that were visible from the whole of the town. Yet some did not budged to the political campaigns and choose to remain away from this, silently observing a boycott. From this polling station towards right, the Chinar trees line the road and maple leaves scatter with the gentle wind. Moving further into the Chinar Park, young boys are busy playing cricket. Pherans and the kangris kept aside. As we talk to them, all have reasons to vote and not to vote. For Zeeshan* nineteen, leaders in the fray have done nothing like their predecessors and would continue with deceiving people for their own gains. He says,” I have not seen any development in the town from my childhood, leaders belonging to different parties came and got away filling their own coffers, without caring about thepeople.” On asking about Sajad Lone, he labeled him as an opportunist and placed him in the same politicians who show their faces only in election season.
On the road connecting Rajwara area, Bilal belonging to Baghat Pora village along with his friend is moving towards the town, both pheran clad with kangris tucked in. Both are students of non-medical final year in the local college. They have left their homes to can escape from family forcing them to vote. They have been calling me from the time I slipped from home and every time I did not attend the phone, how I as a Muslim can support a system other than Khilafah” he says. His friend invokes religion to support him and asks to avoid using the word ‘boycott’ for them. Sajad* says,” It gives an impression that I will vote if Hurriyat or some other person asks me to. No, I have never voted and nor would vote for the rest of my life, inshallah.”
Nearly twelve kilometers towards Kupwara in Treich village of the town, Waseem*,23 an avid supporter of Hurriyat Conference, is angry with his villagers. He expected them to boycott the polls. “Illiterate, they all support a system that oppresses us.” he says. His concern is Indian media calling these elections as a referendum in favor of India and portraying something that is different from ground reality. As his elder brother comes, discussion about the polling percentage starts. They talk about the high voting percentage areas in the town and those that will support the boycott call. Both share the same sentiment of Azadi and are of the view that the leaders have been using the common people for their own purpose. For higher turnout in their village, they hold the campaigning and the arrest of separatist leaders and workers responsible. His brother says, “These politicians sell dreams and barter the blood of martyrs for the six years of chair.”
*Names have been changed on request.
Appeared in The Vox Kashmir on 12/2/2014