Are elections in Indian-administered Kashmir a farce?

With only Modi's BJP competing, are upcoming elections in Indian-administered Kashmir a farce?
2 min read
11 October, 2019
With just one party, the Bhartiya Janata Party of PM Modi competing in the upcoming local elections, many are calling the process a farce amid a crippling crackdown.
Indian security forces block the main gate of former Kashmiri chief minister Farooq Abdullah. [Getty]

Indian-administered Kashmir heads to the polls in local elections amid a crippling lockdown and with local leaders and politicians under detention.

The elections are the first since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped the region of its special status on August 5.

Polling will be held on the October 24 for the chairpersons of the Block Development Council (BDC), a council that oversees rural governments across the state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The election will be contested by only one party, the nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Its main rivals – the Indian National Congress, National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Peoples Conference, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement and other smaller parties – have all boycotted the elections.

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This is the first time in the electoral history of Jammu and Kashmir that all the regional parties are not competing in an election, according to Indian news site The Wire

“The Valley has been turned into a cage and they (the government of India) want us to contest elections,” said the state’s Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir.

It has been 68 days since the national government stripped Kashmir of its flag and its constitution, curtailed the movement of Kashmiris and enforced a debilitating state-wide communication blackout. Anticipating a backlash, the government completely shut down the state, arresting politicians, lawyers, businessmen and separatists.

Three former chief ministers– Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – were among the dozens of politicians either detained or put under house arrest. The 81-year-old Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows detention for up to two years without trial.

The Kashmiri governor’s advisor Farooq Khan has said that Kashmiri leaders will be released from detention "one by one after analysis of every individual." It is unclear when this will happen or how long it will take, the BBC reported.