The boycott call brings us no solace at international plane
Assembly elections are scheduled for 2014. But political observers anticipate it may happen earlier. They have an eye on NC-Congress spat. I think elections will be held as per the schedule. The coalition led by NC has not done anything extraordinary during past five years in office which would encourage it to obtain people’s mandate. Sajjad group of Peoples Conference has almost initiated election campaign. It is certain that the son of Abdul Ghani Lone the Martyr and the son in law of Amanullah are going to take part in elections. Many others are waiting in the wings. BJP has opened its office in the valley and is busy establishing a foothold. We have said that fair and impartial elections aimed at solving the problems of people should not be considered a contagious disease. Before I support participation in elections with the objective of safeguarding the interests of the people, I must say I personally am not eligible for fighting any election. Therefore my support to participation does not carry any personal interest nor do I default those who want to boycott elections. But I would like to clarify some points.
1. Boycott means casting zero per cent votes. That would convince the world that Kashmiri nation has no interest in the elections. But partial boycott reduces the importance of boycott message. In most of the places 60 to 70 per cent votes are polled and people believe this is going to solve their problems.
2. If boycott is observed in any electoral constituency, the voters of NC< Congress or PDP come out to cast their votes. The result is that a candidate from one of these parties emerges as victorious and thus the doors remain closed for a really meritorious and capable candidate.
Despite strong boycott appeal elections of 1996 brought NC full majority vote.The State is a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual state. Freedom struggle is not widespread throughout the State. In Jammu region, Ladakh and Kargil people take full part in elections. In the valley itself, only that segment of people remains aloof from electioneering which is disgruntled with Indian system for one or the other reason. Those supporting accession to Pakistan or Kashmir’s Complete freedom is included among them. Members of NC, Congress and PDP in the valley take full part in the elections and propagate for their party candidates vigorously. A number of people become candidates for assembly seats in a given constituency and they all impress upon their relatives and friends to cast vote to them. They even succeed in roping in such voters in their constituencies as are known for their pro-Pakistan and pro-independence tendency. The fact is that in the valley voting ranges between 40 to 50 per cent at some places and 60 to 70 per cent at other places. The average figures of entire stated touch 70 or 80 per cent. Through local media people come to know about the average of votes cast in different constituencies in Kashmir. But on international level the figures given on state level are taken into account.
This shows that the boycott call brings us no solace on international plane. It is the masses of people who are done maximum harm because as a result of boycott only the candidates of mainstream parties grab the seats because their voters come out of their homes in any case to cast votes. In the city of Srinagar, NC grabs 10 to 11 seats usually. This shows that the voters of the city of Srinagar voluntarily cast their votes for the corrupt and oppressive NC candidates. And it is the city of Srinagar that has to bear the maximum brunt of oppression, incarceration and tyranny. And the most economically hit are also the citizens of Srinagar. If this trend continues, a day will come when not a single officer from Srinagar city will be found in any government office. Voting is more boycotted in Srinagar than in the villages. The opponents of mainstream parties do not come out to cast their vote whereas NC workers do come out to elect their re preventatives this is the reason why they win with thin majority of a thousand or five hundred and even a hundred votes.
This is not democratic election but selection. At many places where votes are not cast, parties manipulate the polling in their favor. In any case, the representative is almost sold.
In the eyes of those who formed MUF in 1987 the entire election system is doubtful. NC and Congress had rigged it in their favor. Much water has flowed down in Jhelum since 1987. It has carried lot of Kashmiri blood also. In contemporary times we note as this:
1. The process of making election process unbiased is accelerated by the international organizations and even within the Indian civil society.
2. If national and international media is properly handled this would also contribute to cleansing and purifying the election process.
3. If entire body of eligible voters in a given constituency comes out to vote the chances of NC or other mainstream parties winning with majority are reduced. The reason is that those who have cast their votes cannot be misused.
4. Election process is doubtful in the eyes of many people. Therefore to ensure clean and fair elections, apart from State Election Commissioner, civil society, human rights organizations and European election monitors and SAARC Monitoring can also be approached to keep an eye on the polling.
Many elections have been held in the state during past sixty-five years. From 1953 to 1975, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah made appeals of boycott of elections from the platform of Plebiscite Front. Despite that elections were held and during the tenure of Mir Qasim 30 seats were declared captured by Congress unopposed. After 1996, separatists gave calls for boycott of elections, but elections were held in 1996, 2002 and 2008. The most surprising was the last one. Political pundits had forecast that the people would not take part in elections nor allow these to take place. That made Farooq Abdullah boasts that even if only one per cent take part in elections they will continue the process. Sixty-four Kashmiri youth had been martyred before the election of 2008 commenced. Yet people came out in large numbers to cast their votes. 15 to 20 candidates ran election in each constituency. Since boycott was observed in Srinagar, NC won the seats in the city. There was some rigging also but the people said they had come out to vote not for the political party but for civic amenities like water, electricity and roads. They said Kashmir issue was there where it is and they were not casting votes about that. It is a different story that during past six decades and half the people neither got The promised clean drinking water, nor employment, electricity or medical assistance. Even illiteracy was not done away with.
A common complaint of people of any ideology is that the mainstream party, after winning in the elections and forming the government almost disappears from public gaze. No problem is solved and the only task for them is to indulge in corruption. In the spirit of the axiom more loyal than the king, these elected representatives are more exploitative than their masters. NC has the reputation of sending people to jails. Some questions arise and people try to seek answers in drawing rooms, shops, factories, schools and colleges and homes. Geelani Sahib and pro-freedom or accession to Pakistan protagonists have always considered mainstream parties, especially NC as the source of oppression and suppression in Kashmir. If that is the case why don’t we first oust them from power?
1. Kashmir issue is hanging fire for last 65 years. Under Plebiscite Front banner the struggle for plebiscite was carried for twenty two years. But at the end of the day the long struggle was called “wandering in the wilderness”.
2. People took up the gun. More than eighty thousand are said to have perished; properties are destroyed, women molested, education came to nadir and economically we were dragged to the deep abyss. Despite all this the voice of Kashmir’s has not been heard by the international community nor did the gun yield any positive result.
3. Gun totting guys left the gun and joined political struggle.
4. Despite these huge sacrifices the very political parties are ruling over the people in Kashmir who have vandalized the rights of the people in collusion with India.
5. Everybody asks the question: what next? Dimensions of civil disobedience and stone throwing were also added to the struggle. The result was zero. What the is the way of breaking this stalemate?
I don’t think freedom struggle can become popular with the people unless the organizations and groups engaged in the struggle address the day to day problems.
Of the people simultaneously with the struggle. Freedom struggle is a long affair. People can be easily lured by a political party that plays the politics of power. The present day political leadership working only for power stands exposed in the eyes of the people. For a long period of more than six decades the leaders have not been able to solve peoples’ problems. People are dissatisfied with these political parties. It is different matters that people are forced to knock at the door of these parties. I have two examples. In 1946 India was still a British colony and British law was in force. Indian National Congress and Muslim League both participated in elections under the leadership of the Viceroy. The two parties formed a coalition government. Despite that these parties did not give up their struggle for independence. It was as early as 1937 that Muslim League and Congress had taken part in provincial elections.
Second example is of Palestinians. Despite the control of Israel, PLO assumed control on some parts of Palestine and continued its struggle for freedom. Thus the struggle of freedom and struggle for bringing relief to the people both went on simultaneously.
I think separatists have two ways of joining elections in J&K State. One is to follow the example of Latvia and Lithuania. Let all separatists come to the people and vigorously campaign for elections. They can tell people how they have been fighting for last sixty five years for freedom. All forms of struggle were tested but we could not build world opinion in our favour. We could not take Kashmir out of Indian control through the use of gun. The only way left is to go to the assembly and through a majority of vote prove to the world that we want freedom. We pass resolution for freedom like in Latvia and Lithuania. This will make clear to the people of India that Kashmir’s will settle for nothing less than freedom from India.
If separatists are not prepared for this option, then the other option is that we return educated, honest, and right thinking people on each assembly seat--- those who support the freedom of Kashmir. They have to be prepared for fighting election in each constituency. People have to be convinced that they should vote only the candidates thus nominated. This will leave no chance for the mainstream parties to field their candidates in the elections. I would like to remind you that mainstream political parties are trying to discredit us in the eyes of freedom fighters and the people by spreading the canard that some people get from us hefty sums to propagate boycott of elections and boycott has been commercialized. Once they are declared victorious, they repeat the game of putting children, youth, women and old people in the prisons. They will get PSA imposed by SPs and DCs, reintroduce nepotism, bribery and tyrannical methods. The world will be told that there is democracy and elections were held in democratic way.
I know many people who have been my colleagues in the struggle for freedom will have reservations in accepting what I say about participation in elections. People are used to backbiting. But during 44 years of struggle I have never taken these things as serious meaning who opposes me for what. I don’t care to know whether my interests are served or not. But according to my sentiment, after God it is the native land that has to be worshipped, its people and their respect and dignity. Let me conclude by repeating that legally I am not eligible for taking part in election.
This article was published in Daily Greater Kashmir on 5th June 2013.