BACKGROUNDER

2014 General Elections in Kashmir Valley: Incidents of Violence and its Impact

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  • September 25, 2014

    Introduction

    Elections in Jammu and Kashmir are observed with great interest as they are often regarded as a yardstick of normalcy in the state and acceptance of Indian democracy. The first elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held in 1951 where Sheikh Abdullah came to power riding a popular wave. However, subsequent elections were often marred by manipulation and alleged rigging (except for the 1977 elections which were largely deemed fair and returned National Conference to power). The massive fraud in the 1987 elections was one of the reasons for the start of insurgency in the state and as a result, the electoral process was suspended till 1996. However, subsequent elections were largely seen as fair with power alternating between the National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) either independently or in alliance with Congress.

    Elections and violence in Jammu and Kashmir are synonymous, although the level of violence has receded significantly in recent times. The 2002 elections saw approximately 250 civilian casualties in the two months preceding the elections. This dropped by 95% in the 2008 polls, which was the first to witness zero killings of political office bearers. However the Parliamentary polls of 2014 again witnessed many clashes and killings, and people of the state fear far more disruptions during the Assembly elections of this year.

    Despite the substantial level of violence recorded in the 2014 elections, it registered a turnout of 43%, an increase of 12% over the last elections.  The Jammu constituency recorded an increase of 18 per cent, while Udhampur saw a 24 per cent increase from the last elections. Ladakh also saw a substantial voter turnout of 65 per cent despite a decrease of 7 per cent. Voting in these three constituencies was largely peaceful, far from the atmosphere in the Valley.  While the Jammu and Ladakh regions witnessed a good voter turnout, the Valley saw boycott calls from separatist leadership and threats from militant outfits resulting in the elections being marred by low voter turnout and violence.

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