THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITIES
Queuing up to cast their vote outside the polling stations during the last 7th phase of the J&K Assembly Elections in Jammu. Photo by Raman Raina
he window of opportunities which was opened by the Election Commission of India has provided sufficient space for all stake holders in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to act their part in a positive manner. It is heartening to note that all the stake holders excepting separatists and disruptionists have taken the opportunity by the forelocks as six phases of the elections have indicated. By all standards and calculations the polling participation in all three Divisions of the State has been excellent even when compared with polling averages in rest of the country. This was despite the fact that the separatists and their cahoots made all efforts to dissuade the voters of the Valley to desist from voting. It must go to the courage and credit of Sunni Muslims of the Valley that they ignored and rebuffed all intimidation and propaganda of the separatists and pushed them to the wall.
Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Moulvi Farooq, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and all must have been surprised and even frustrated to watch people queuing polling stations to caste their votes despite their calls and protests. Even Mufti Sayed and his daughter Mehabooba must have been taken aback by the brisk participation of people in the election process. They must thank their stars that they later decided to participate in the democratic process. For the first time during the last twenty years, Kashmiri Muslims have come out in large numbers for voting and in doing so, they braved freezing cold, threats and negative propaganda too. The separatists have not only been ignored but also isolated. They have therefore presently become dormant but we should not assume them to be dead because under the motivation of Pakistan and its Agencies they are still able to whip up passions and sentiments even on non-issues as we saw at the time of Shree Amarnath Shrine Board Land row.
First and foremost we shall have to appreciate the hard work which Election Commission has done to ensure and arrange a free and fair election in the state against many odds. This is the time for all right thinking people of the State and the Country to put their heads together and see that the gains of the election process are not allowed to be frittered away by factional bickering and political prejudices, to the advantage of the anti-national elements. Irrespective of the results of the elections, which will be out only after the seventh phase of the election is completed, every one has to think big and above his party performance, for the welfare and good of the people of the State. (these have since been declared)
People of the Valley in particular and State in general have suffered much due to the dance of death and destruction that was unleashed in the State by the separatists and their sympathisers.They have undergone much pain and trauma. The wheel of development has stalled for two decades and the social matrix of the State has been shredded, requiring deep repairs. There is no more scope for pain and suffering and in this scenario we need not to seek and establish a Govt. only by a majority party in the State. Instead, because the State has undergone acute trauma, it needs special remedies. It is required to install a Composite Govt comprising of all parties that participated and won seats in the state elections. Representation can be given proportionate to the number of seats won in the elections. This way all decisions to improve and perfect the governance of the State will be supported by all stake holders and therefore will have more relevance and acceptance of the people.
This is not a utopian concept and can be worked out within the limits of the Constitution of India and the Constitution of the J&K State. Both of these constitutions are dynamic enough to allow and nourish such a mechanism, provided the elected members and their patrons are sincerely concerned about the plight of the people of the State. They have to subdue their party preferences. This is the minimum that the local politicians should ensure now after doing a great job of persuading voters to vote in the face of threats of boycott and intimidation by the separatists.
One would be less than fair to ignore the Herculean job security personnel performed in these elections. They deserve to be hailed, to have overseen a frictionless and peaceful poll. The conduct of these elections makes it obvious that our security staff is second to none in handling surcharged and sensitive situations, given a free hand. Equally state Bureaucracy too has proved its salt by arranging and conducting the elections in the State in the most fair and free manner. It has also proved that it is capable of handling serious situations with skill and efficiency, provided it is not ensnared in local politics which local politicians push it into. The present dispensation of Governor’s Rule allowed the bureaucracy to assert and deliver without any political dictation, for which it deserves praise.
So let us not fritter the fruits of this Historic Election of the State by our petty personal ambitions. Let us join hands and redeem the state from the abyss it has been pushed into by the irresponsible and senseless politics of disruption and dissension. It is possible, now that the ballot has silenced the bullet.
lection Commission of India has created a unique opportunity for all stake holders in Jammu & Kashmir state by ordering elections in the month of November and
December 2008. The Election Commissioner must have done his tough homework and made good calculations so as to stagger polls in seven phases; creating the longest ever state election in the history of India. This must have been necessitated by the ground realities in the Valley which have been vitiated by separatist forces and secessionists who have re-emerged after Shree Amarnath Shrine land row. Election Commission’s move though pragmatic and imaginative is yet fraught with risks keeping in view the atmosphere of civil insurrection that has been enacted by the separatists and secessionists by whipping up sensitivities. It is therefore necessary for all stake holders to be vigilant and not allow the situation to be hijacked by the militants and their supporters as they were able to do in the past.
It is a well known fact that separatists and their militants are a miniscule group operating in the valley who have mastered the art of intimidation. They know how to bamboozle the peace loving Muslims of the Valley to submit and surrender by making mad threats of violence and reprisals against the peace loving people. They have already utilized these techniques of intimidation and threats in the previous elections when they were able to enforce poll boycott in certain areas. They hope and plan to repeat that act of sabotaging the elections once again. Both factions of the Hurryat Conference have already declared their intent of boycotting the election process. Both factions have even declared that they will campaign for boycott of the elections. The ways and means of their campaign are well known to be based on fundamentalist preachings of and for the establishment of Islamic Nizam-i-Mustaffa in the Valley whereby only Muslims will be allowed to live.
The head of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front Yasin Malik who was a hardened militant with many serious crimes on his head, has also declared that he will incite people of the Valley to stay out of the elections. He stated that he would move from village to village to prompt and provoke people to boycott the elections His movements are always covered by his henchmen, gun totting terrorists. Therefore it can well be assumed that he too will use all forceful methods to keep people away from the polls.
Bilal Lone inherited the legacy of his father, who fell to the bullets of his terrorist cahoots. Bilal who became the head of the People’s Conference adopted a shrewd silence initially when the announcement for elections was made by the Election Commission, giving cause to the hope that he would join the fray. But subsequently he joined hands with the separatists.
One of the so called mainline parties PDP has adopted an unethical silence and is dithering on its reaction to the elections. The soft face of the separatists, Mehbooba Mufti, who is the head of the party cannot afford to confront the separatists under whose cover and protection she was able to organize her outfit. It may however, finally join the fray because it has already tasted power and therefore can not easily deny the spoils of power to its party men. But till then we can assume that PDP will not participate in the elections and will create hurdles for the conduct of fair polls in the state.
The Communist Party of India which has a notional presence in the Valley but won a seat in the previous elections has adopted tricky tactics of remaining non-committal till date. But it may rethink and participate under pressure from its National Council.
Kashmir centric National Conference and Jammu centric National Congress are the only two mainline political parties who have declared their intent to contest the elections in the Valley and other Divisions of the J&K state. Infact it devolves on these two core parties to defeat the dubious designs of the separatists and the terrorists by bringing about fearless and full participation of the voters in the election process.
Now that Election Commission of India has granted registration to the Jammu and Kashmir United Front, the Kashmiri Hindu political front, it is also the right time for the Commission to carve out suitable, separate constituencies for the forcibly displaced Kashmiri Pandits at Jammu and Delhi, proportionate to their population. The Pandits in turn should participate with full zest to make their presence felt by the political parties, which otherwise take them for granted.
Both from the Division of Jammu and Ladakh all political parties have welcomed the move of the Election Commission and have committed full and fearless participation. Panthers Party has declared to fight the elections with full zest; so have other groups and parties. This is however in addition to the mainline parties of National Congress and National Conference who have deep roots and active cadres in both the provinces.
BJP has deep and wide roots in Jammu Division and has therefore decided to participate with full energy in Jammu Division. But it should not ignore Kashmir Division due to the separatist’s opposition. It should rather participate in full force in the Valley by mandating a large number of candidates. Besides it should ensure that maximum participation of voters in Jammu Division takes place to create pressure against the separatists of the valley.
So elections in the state should not be a silent affair in the shadow of terrorist’s guns; rather they should be full and participative in all three Divisions. But all precautions and safeguards require to be kept in place by all concerned to ensure that the designs of separatists are crushed for good.
First of all it is on National Conference and the National Congress to counter the negative and false propaganda of the separatists with counter argument based on cogent facts and figures. They should motivate their cadres and the activists to confront the false and slanted hearsay and rumors of the secessionists by which they tarnish secular democratic Republic of India as an unsafe place for the Muslims of the Valley though they enjoy all the privileges and perks of a participative democracy in which people rule themselves through their elected representatives. Equally other groups and parties who contest the elections should also motivate their cadres to ensure maximum participation of people in the process of elections.
In Jammu and Ladakh Divisions political parties and other social groups should ensure full participation of the voters in the elections so that the loud noise of few separatists of the Valley is drowned in the tumult of majority voters of Jammu and Ladakh. This is not difficult to achieve because people of the State are fed up with the separatist machinations.
The role of administration, both at the state and central levels in these crucial elections can not be undermined and ignored. It becomes the responsibility of the administration to ensure by all fair and clean measures that arrangements for the conduct of the elections are kept in place. No laxity and complacence should be allowed for which a message should go across the board. All election personnel should remain neutral but not negative. They should make all efforts for the desirous voters to caste their votes. This needs to be done in the national.
The Central Govt has to ensure that not only elections are held fairly but they should also seem so because it is the Governor’s Rule at the time of elections. They should ensure and facilitate maximum participation of foreign observers to oversee and watch conduct of elections in all the three Divisions. The observers should however not be allowed to watch the activities of the separatists of the Valley only and ignore the enthusiasm of the voters of other Divisions and places. It needs to made clear to them that separatists have their restricted strongholds confined to some localities in Srinagar and Sopore towns only. Beyond those localities they plan to subvert and sabotage elections by use of gun and threats for which they will not hesitate to the use of selective killing of soft targets as they did in the past.
The Govt has to arrange and ensure a foolproof system of security for the voters, candidates and the election staff. This is not an impossible task though difficult it can be. But the Election Commission of India seems to have taken this fact into consideration already as it has staggered election into seven phases so that security and other staff and other infrastructure can be redeployed from place to place. The security forces have got yet another chance to prove their credentials and show by their behavior that they are next to none in performance of their assigned duties. They should play firm with the disruptionists. They should behave friendly with the people. They should work as their friends and show by all means that they are interested in their welfare and wellbeing. They should do nothing which distances them from the people. They need to be sent into short courses of community policing and social interaction so that they are hailed as saviors of peace and democracy for the people of the state.
Last and not the least is the role of Muslim voters of the Valley who have been granted this opportunity to rise and give a befitting reply to the forces of terror and mayhem by thronging election booths in large numbers. If they want to redeem and resurrect the Valley from present turmoil and turbulence, the window is open and the opportunities are many for all stake holders. Will they miss the bus again and fritter the opportunity and allow the separatists to hijack all efforts for restoration of peace and prosperity in the State? Hope not.
*P.N.Ganjoo was born in a modest Kashmiri family about 7 decades ago, lost his father early and was raised by his honest, hardworking mother. With her efforts he received his education in Srinagar and went on to serve in various Government Departments before retiring as a senior grade KAS officer.
Presently he is working on his varied interests besides being a consulting Director of a software services company.
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