Ali Mohammad Shah decided to use a loudspeaker only on November 26, the last day of campaigning before the district development council elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Campaigning had been low key before that. Shah had visited the homes of village chiefs, talked to people sitting on “pends”, or shopfronts, arenas for public discussion in Kashmir. In some villages, he had gone door to door.

There was no point to a high-voltage campaign, explained Shah, who is a member of the People’s Democratic Party and is contesting the elections as a candidate for the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a conglomeration of mainly Kashmiri parties. “The traditional fervour of elections is missing,” he said. “People just don’t attach any meaning to these elections now.”

Even the muted campaign had been full of challenges. “It’s very hard to face people and convince them to vote,” said Shah, who is standing for election in the Keller-2 constituency of South Kashmir’s Shopian district. “After August 5, people have lost hope. They ask us about it. People feel betrayed.”

He was referring to the decisions taken by the Central government on August 5, 2019, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of special status and splitting the state into two Union...

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