As votes for the first local election in IIOJK are being counted, an international team of reporters from the New York Times was brought into the region to carry out a curated tour in the hopes of validating democratic legitimacy. A close look into the political environment of Kashmir will show anything but. Prominent politicians have been disenfranchised just as the population continues to struggle under extreme lockdowns. If anything, the only logical conclusion these reporters can come to is that the entire electoral process has been a sham.

Last year, after suspending Kashmir’s special status, the BJP government arrested hundreds of separatists, moderates, politicians, advocates and journalists that, to this date, are still sitting in jails. Most of the prominent politicians that remain have been detained in their homes and threatened to forego their position in the elections. On the other hand, those who have been freed, like Farooq Abdulla, are either fighting unwarranted cases on money laundering or links with militants—as in the case of Rehman Para.

Another factor worth taking into consideration is that the elections were called abruptly, leaving parties only a week to prepare and register their candidates. What made the situation much worse was that the permission to campaign, especially for local parties, was usually denied thus robbing them of the same platform extended to others.

For over a year and a half, the people of Kashmir have been living under dire circumstances and when the time for voting came around, they were robbed of the opportunity to vouch for individuals who understood their grievances and were intent on fighting for them. The people of the region, whether officials or common citizens, have systematically been marginalised to the point of complete alienation. Surely, a democratic region is not based upon political and social subjugation. Neither should it require for legitimacy to be established externally but instead should be reflected in the circumstances of the people.