Democracy the soul of civilized societies- any default in this time tested system of managing niceties of people’s governance would lead to anarchy. Democracy has been misinterpreted by some egocentric narcissistic for their own interests from time to time, but democracy has stood odds and trials and proved winner under all circumstances. Genuine democracy warrants generating justifiable leadership by authentic and legitimate vote for justified system of governance in the best interest of people.
Kashmir and people of Kashmir are experiencing flawed democracy for last many decades now. After cession of autocratic rule whole of subcontinent got free from shackles of autocracy and exploitation in the middle of last century but poor Kashmiries instead of being liberated got sandwiched between two budding democracies and their egoistic leadership thus getting deprived of the real democracy up till now. The dawn of democracy lit this whole area with lights of freedom and empowerment but Kashmir the land of saints and knowledge got cursed and was torn into several pieces. In this part of Kashmir what ever democracy was doled out for people got eroded by political uncertainty and the exploitation by political opportunists. Democracy has different definitions in Kashmir and every Tom, Dick and Harry gives his own explanation regarding democracy just to suit his own ulterior motives. No doubt! Elections had been part of our flawed democratic system but these elections have always come under scanner for one or the other reasons. Wholesale unopposed selection of legislative assembly members (lawmakers) in fifties during last century amounted to raping democracy by its champions. Sixties and seventies were not different only the manipulators were of unusual stock or were wearing a different robe and mask. This is one aspect of sick electioneering in Kashmir, commonly known as rigging in electoral parlance.
Elections were always exploited and presented in different appearances by political service providers. At one point of time election was passed on as mandate for resolving intricate Kashmir issue and poor people were made to believe that their miseries and political uncertainty will end soon, but the chain of complicacies never ceased, instead the heavy boots of exploitation, deceit and subjugation became much heavier with sparkling political shine. These manipulative elections lead to a situation where a clear line was drawn between influential and weak; affluent and underprivileged over the period of time. Politicians made fortunes out of elections; they ensured securing of their political constituencies at all cost leading to chain of exploitations, suppression and deception. Infamous elections of eighties (which were rigged beyond recognition) proved a catalyst for bursting lava of just and genuine aspirations of people of Kashmir. I can’t say elections were always sham but it is true they were never fair in real sense, as well. This stigma of unfairness to our elections originates from deceptive practices of politicians, political turmoil, uncertainty, half hearted people’s participation and above all political corruption.
Elections were attached with unclear and imaginary issues as per the ease and convince of political powers and their masters, thus making elections to lose their essence. For last more than six decades elections were made mockery. At one time Kashmiriyat was put on stake, then it was so-called all-round development that was put in the grind, others brought naya Kashmir issue to the fore front of electioneering, some attributed religious sentiments to elections, it depended on the political situation, stakes involved and motives. All this made elections vulnerable to diminishing levels of fairness.
Now, is the time to decide rationale and authority of conducting elections in Kashmir? For conducting elections we should draw a clear line between local issue of day to day governance and complicated Kashmir issue as the two are different in shape and magnitude. Local elections in no way should be considered as mandate for making any decision regarding the complicated Kashmir political issue. By merging local issues with matters of international ramification, none of the issues can be dealt and resolved with justice. Elections in Kashmir in real sense should be conducted for resolving and managing local administrative, civic and social matters while as negotiating and subsequent resolution of Kashmir issue should be entrusted to a high powered apex group shaped after conducting a referendum like extra ordinary election.
Several political factions view the electioneering in Kashmir through their myopic vision. One of the political groups propagate complete boycott of election process others are ardent supporters of election. The groups who plead for election boycott don’t give a concrete alternative of elections for governance; they beat the drum of boycott just for the sake of boycott. This strengthens the reasoning of other faction for conduct of elections and they promote this boycott rhetoric as tantrum with huge propaganda machinery and support at their back. Unless and until boycott call is substantiated by a political vision and mission the other group (opportunists) will harvest political crop out of this half hearted appeal. Boycott is fair and genuine if elections are passed on as complete mandate for resolving all issues and if political parties contest this election with a vague promise to resolve Kashmir issue. In real sense it is obligatory on part of the people of Kashmir to stay away from election if it is being conducted at the cost of thousands of sufferers who suffered for a cause and mission. People of their own should say ‘NO’ to such elections.
Political parties and politicians should bear in their mind that resolution of Kashmir issue involves participation of not only true and legitimate representatives of people of Kashmir but representation of Pakistan and India governments as well. So how can the elected representatives of Kashmir armed with powers of mere lawmaking can decide the fate of people of Kashmir unless an arrangement is reached for an extra ordinary situation for resolution of this complicated issue?
During last two decades certain vested interests turned political tables in their favor by exploiting uncertain and fluid political situation in Kashmir. Election boycott was made an instrument to manipulate results. Separatists encouraged and ensured election boycott to promote their political agenda but some unscrupulous elements sitting in the wings made good out of these boycott calls. The poll boycott on one side robed democracy of its majority aspect by lowest participation of electorates in some constituencies and on the other hand gangsters and fraud made easy inroads into political systems by manipulation and coercion. In some constituencies criminals restrained voters from casting their votes by intimidation and bullying, blaming separatists for the same and paved way for their journey to political power. Some unscrupulous elements who were showing off as extremists and renegades till yesterday explored criminalized politics in their favor catalyzed by fear psychoses within the populace and are enjoying tastes of power with immunity. Kashmir’s political fraternity is infested by elements that can go to any extent, even for a kill to ensure their political security.
Boycott or no boycott-But political system in Kashmir needs to be cleansed from elements of deceit and exploitation and the process has to start within the system.