In the frost-kissed hamlet of Chewa in northern Indian Kashmir, residents queue up at a secondary school to vote in local elections. “I have never voted before, this is the first time,” said Mohammed Afzal, 38, a painter.
But rather than exercising his political free will, Mr Afzal was casting the first ballot of his life out of fear. The elections, held last weekend, were for the district development council, a rung of local government introduced to the Jammu and Kashmir region by Narendra Modi, India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister.
New Delhi is trying to cast the election as an unofficial referendum on its efforts to bring the heavily militarised, Muslim-majority region under tighter central control and tried its best to make sure locals voted.
Mr Modi’s government last year stripped Jammu and…