By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai : –
“Whatever the (Indian) Government spokesman might have said before, or may say now, there has never been a free and fair election in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” Jayaprakash Narayan, ‘India’s Conscience-Keeper.’
Hope and change the Modi way seems to have taken in the majority of India’s voters since he was elected in May, 2014 but his message to the flood-ravaged people of Kashmir has so far been less than palatable. History has proven that candidates in the Himalayas are tall on promises but short on results, and the elections are invariably engineered to suit the status quo. This time is expected to be no different.
The hope of prime minister Modi, of course, is to put a little Vaseline on his party’s long-time efforts to slip past Article 370 by simply flooding the state Assembly with members of the BJP and concocting changes through legislation that will effectively render the law null and void. First it was the river Jehlum. Now it’s the BJP. Perhaps the greatest ravaging of the Kashmiri consciousness would be putting into place mechanisms and laws that will further inhibit opportunities for the long-held desire of Kashmir to hold a referendum giving it independence from India all together.
Since the first elections were held in 1951, they have been seen as obvious frauds, where the majority of seats were uncontested or votes that were somehow magically switched from one candidate to another.
In 1951, out of 75 seats, the ruling party with the support of the Government of India won all 75 seats, with 73 seats returned uncontested. What an irony that then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru said about these elections on October 18, 1951 that the people of Kashmir have sent a message, “that they were with India.” What a joke!
In 1957, the ruling party won 68 seats out of 75 and 43 were returned unopposed. In 1962, they won 70 out of 75 seats and 39 were unchallenged. And in 1967, ruling party won 60 out of 75 and 55 were returned unopposed.
A leading Indian leader Jayaprakash Narayan said on February 1, 1972, “Whatever the (Indian) Government spokesman might have said before, or may say now, there has never been a free and fair election in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”
In 1987, Muslim United Front (MUF) was winning 83% of the seats in the Valley of Kashmir but the Returning Officer changed all the results. All the available evidence testify that MUF could have easily won 37 seats out of 45 in the Valley of Kashmir alone.
Most of the leaders of the Kashmiri resistance today were either contesting elections in 1987 or were involved in the election campaign of MUF candidates. Syed Salahuddin, Commander of Kashmiri militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen was contesting elections from Amira Kadal constituency (the heart of the capitol) and was winning by 14,000 votes. Yet the Returning Officer announced that he was losing by 14, 000 votes. Yasin Malik, Chairman Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front was the campaign manager of Salahuddin. Both picked up the gun after losing the faith in the elections in Kashmir.
Amy Waldman wrote in the New York Times on August 24, 2002 that “Rigged elections in Kashmir in 1989 helped trigger the armed uprising that India estimates has taken more than 35,000 lives.” Since 2002, the number of dead has risen to over 100,000.
The forthcoming elections to be held between November 25 to December 20, 2014 in Indian Occupied Kashmir will be no different. They are being held under the Indian Constitution, in spite of the fact that the United Nations Security Council resolutions 91 of 1951 and 122 of 1957 have declared that “…any action that Assembly might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State or any part thereof would not constitute a disposition of the State in accordance with the above principle.”
Mahatma Gandhi is known for his statement that “The will of Kashmiris is the supreme law in Kashmir.” Yet what overlays and ultimately renders the will of the people powerless is government of India itself. The greatest flaw in government is that it governs rather than being a fundamental expression of popular will. Electoral systems transfer the rights and powers bestowed in people to third parties who are not bound by contract or apparently even by moral obligation to represent those who have given them such license. Democracy was intended by purpose, if not design, to give power to the people, but the fallibility of the ambitious invariably overtakes whatever good might have been intended. What the forthcoming elections will not do is place the power where it truly belongs: in the hands of the people.
“We profess democracy but rule by force in Kashmir.” Jayprakash Narayan, once said. Aside from corruption in the electoral process, the rule of force is everywhere evident through the presence of more than 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces needed, apparently, to shut down any ideas the Kashmiris may have to take control of their own affairs.
Election, however, is the sine qua non of democratic process. The basic prerequisite for an election is that it has to be free and fair. Elections should also be free from violence, coercion, intimidation and unlawful influence of armed forces. Unfortunately, the elections in Indian Occupied Kashmir do not meet this threshold and are therefore illegitimate as a vehicle to move forward any talks even as a first step towards the resolution of Kashmir dispute.
India insists to hold façade of election in Kashmir because it provides her an opportunity to respond to the criticism of the world powers who recognize the genuine sentiments of the people of Kashmir.
Just as Kashmiri resistance leaders again intend to boycott elections that they see as an attempt to legitimize Indian rule, win over independents, engineer splits in regional parties and get Pandits (Hindus) who fled during the revolt to register and vote, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq recognizes the BJP’s ploy as cynical. “Not only are they trying to win the election through default, they are trying to split Muslims into Shias and Sunnis – and even within Sunnis a further split,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
Syed Ali Geelani categorically denounced the BJP’s tactics and said that “Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and it has never been a part of India. Its occupation carries no weight and is neither valid nor legitimate.”
Mohammad Yasin Malik said, “Jammu Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris and so called elections can never ‘Indianize’ the people of Kashmir.” Those who think they can conquer Kashmir through manipulated elections are “living in fool’s paradise,” he added.
Shabir Shah said that Kashmir was crying for international aid after having gone through devastating floods. “The announcement of elections is an exercise in futility.”
With his party’s recent victories in regions that aren’t traditional BJP strongholds, such as in Maharashtra, home of Indian financial capital Mumbai, and in relatively industrialized Haryana in northern India, Narendra Modi’s strategy can be expected to gain his party more than the 11 seats it now holds. But in the final analysis, it will not matter. Such elections do not address the open sore that bleeds with continuing violence and suffering that takes place daily in Kashmir. They do not take the place of the referendum that has been promised them for 67 years. They cannot resolve through elections the direct popular vote that is needed to determine the will of the people. They cannot enfranchise those who have already been disenfranchised through the willful refusal to grant Kashmiris this guaranteed right to self-determination. They cannot change the hearts of those who have already seen how useless and corrupt such a process has shown itself to be.
We should know that the election plan of the Modi administration has nothing to do with building a majority consensus in Kashmir. It has also nothing to do to strengthen the peace process between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership. It is designed to legitimize its illegitimate rule in the eyes of the international community.
The fact is that the real issue in Kashmir is not about elections, and it is not about an economic package or terrorism. The real issue in Kashmir is about the political destiny of the 18 million people of Kashmir, be they in Indian Occupied Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, Gilgat-Baltistan or Kashmiri expatriates..
We, therefore, put forth the following seven points that may pave the way to set a stage for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute:
i. The demilitarization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir on either side of the Cease-fire Line;
ii. Satisfying the democratic principles, the rule of law, peace and security for every inhabitant of all the five regions of Jammu & Kashmir;
iii. Repealing the draconian laws, particularly ‘The Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act’;
iv. Allowing all political parties the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and right to unhindered election campaign;
v. Requiring to sign no oath of allegiance to the Indian or Pakistani Constitutions;
vi. Deputizing an international and neutral agency like the United Nations to conduct, monitor and supervise the elections;
vii. Reassuring that the elected officials be given a mandate to negotiate a final settlement of the Kashmir conflict with India and Pakistan;
Let us hope that the leadership of both India and Pakistan as well as the world powers realize that resolution of the Kashmir dispute guarantees peace and stability not only in Kashmir but also in the region of South Asia – home to one-fifth of total human race.