Kashmir poll winners made to quit by militants
One moment, Gulam Rasool Khan was a winner in Kashmir's municipal election and looking forward to making good his promises on water, electricity and roads.
The next moment he was apologising in an advertisement for his 'apostasy' in contesting the election and announcing he was standing down.
Mr Khan's about-turn was prompted by death threats from separatist militants ordering him to withdraw. Other candidates were also warned against standing in the first civic elections in the troubled Muslim-majority state for almost three decades.
Other winning councillors and mayors have placed similar ads, recanting profusely and begging militants for forgiveness. The urgency in the ads was made clear on Tuesday when militants shot dead candidate Gulam Mohiuddin Mir.
Before the first phase of voting on January 29 there was a spate of deadly attacks on candidates, party workers and rallies. Kashmiris still turned out to vote. In the militant bastion of Srinagar, turnout was a surprising 20 per cent.
The figures signal a big shift in public opinion. Although the militants loathe the idea of Kashmiris participating in the political process, Kashmiris showed they believe in democracy.
'People know that settling Kashmir's future will take a long time. In the meantime, they want to elect people who can deliver on civic amenities like schools and roads and that's why they've come out to vote,' Kashmir analyst Surinder Oberoi said.
For the militant groups, most of whom want Kashmir to join Pakistan, the public's response is embarrassing. Whether it's civic or general elections, they want Kashmiris to boycott them to show New Delhi they despise anything to do with the Indian state.
The last phase of the elections was yesterday.