Published On: Tue, Dec 3rd, 2013

Elections 2014 and collective pledge to vote

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

At one point in early 1990s there was a regular and routine argument in defence of militancy that it has internationalised the Kashmir case. The argument continued to be pressed without a second’s hesitation and could not be argued against the fact that the Kashmir dispute became an international issue in January 1948 when Government of India petitioned the UN Security Council on the subject. However, Pakistan, the lead party supporting the people of Kashmir has been using the UN Security Council Resolutions as a reference only when things start going tough for it.

An impartial study of UN records reveals that Pakistan used Kashmir debate for its own interest to secure the military and other cash balances that were due to it at the time of partition and were put on hold by the Government of India. Pakistan succeeded to have the cash balance released by India during the first week of Kashmir debate at the UN. In times of ease Kashmir was never discussed at the UN from November 1965 to August 1996, for over 31 years.

Today our leaders are making repeated statements that international community does not care about the people of Kashmir and that UN does not seem to take due interest in the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Our leaders were wrong in accrediting militancy in 1990 and they are wrong again in discrediting the UN or the international community. We are part of the international community and as such need to discharge our part of duty to ourselves and to the international community. They seem to forget that India too is a leading member of UN and the people of India (of all faiths) are part of the international community as well. India has an overwhelming influence in international affairs.

International community knows about the merits and demerits of Kashmiri militancy. General Musharraf further sealed the debate and closed the margin of doubt when he accepted the ownership of militancy in his four-point formula. The authors failed to regard the fact that question of equality and self-determination is not a Muslim question and has to be inclusive. Kashmiri leaders were carried in a basket as and when required by Islamabad. There has been a generational shift in the dignity and credibility of Kashmiri leadership.

Kashmiri leaders that had left the State in 1947, 1965 and 1971 were dedicated and had a simple way of life. The post-1990 militant and political leadership detached itself from the hardships and uncompromising character of their elders. We are faced with a situation that a militant and a political leader of post 1990 would consider carefully the merits and consequences of defending the equality of people and their rights in the standard manner, against the climate in which they have learned to breathe during the last 23 years. Politics in Kashmir is like any other department of the Government and leaders seem to have employed the needy. Every kind of argument is tossed to defend the undemocratic, non-transparent and unaccountable character of the parties. Some parties start and end up with one, two or three people and a party letterhead. As long as their respective support base and the invisible hand keep them going they do not seem to bother about the people’s trust.

Twenty three years down the timeline in 2013 we seem to be suggesting that participation in elections in 2014 is prejudicial to Kashmir cause. We are once again skipping the fact that the international community in its Resolution of 30 March 1951 has settled the argument that elections would not be a substitute for self-determination and has cautioned that J & K Assembly is elected from only a part of the State and therefore is not fully representative. Elections are a non-issue and participation in any election is a basic human right. It provides the voter with an opportunity to decide in favour of a person who would be a cause of his empowerment. Vote is the only means that puts a common man and woman in charge of his/her administrative needs.

Kashmiri leaders are way behind the times in the art of leadership. No political party so far has succeeded to develop a mechanism that could have developed into a ‘wisdom tank’ and offered well considered view on a subject. Elections 2014 are around the corner and political parties have started campaigning to convince the people to boycott these elections. There may be a merit in a boycott call at one point in a particular habitat but boycotting Kashmir elections may not be in the interests of the common people. There could be nothing worse than an unelected administration or a Government elected in the climate of a boycott.

Times have moved on and we should not argue on the style relied upon in 1990. Our leaders should start working, to establish a system of free and fair debate on issues. The circle of wisdom of a political party could not be reliable until they look over and above their shoulders and beyond the borders of Srinagar. A counter argument to a poll boycott or to a lack of interest in polls has been worked out by the Election Commission of India, for the Delhi elections. Election Commission of India has planned to get 20 – odd bands to the capital to entertain and educate people on the need to vote. It will start from 11 am on December 1 and the concert will have performances by Indi bands and other fun activities, all in a bid to get people to vote.

The event at India Gate will entertain and educate people about their voting rights, polling stations and give them a glimpse of the voting process through the past few decades through old photographs. The event will end with a collective pledge to vote on December 4. This is the first time such a concert is being organised by the Delhi Election Commission. Euphoria, Parikrama and Shibani Kashyap will perform at the concert along with 13 other independent bands. There will be a dance performance by a group of performers confined to wheelchairs and a stand-up comedy routine by Surrender Sharma. EC officials have put in place elaborate arrangements to monitor the run up to poll day. There would be checks on the quantity of liquor and other spurious substances being distributed, to the increasing display of money.

How would our pro Poll Boycott leaders reconcile to a similar campaign in Kashmir elections in 2014? Election Commission may decide to hold similar events in Jammu and Kashmir to entertain and educate people about their voting rights. If the Election Commission considers an elaborate event/programme like the one in Delhi, the Kashmir poll boycott call may not stand up to face its merit. Kashmiri leaders have to fine tune their art of politics and yield to accept that the circle of wisdom is never complete. Common man and woman may also volunteer during these events to a collective pledge to vote and it is unlikely that a leader would engage in a war with the people that remain his/or her reference.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He is on UN register as an expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He is an advocate of Supreme Court and could be reached on email

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