By Ghulam Nabi
28 January, 2009
Elections were held, voter turnout was exceptional, and the government is now formed. But the big question remained unanswered why did people vote this time. The large scale turnout surprised the pro-freedom leadership and pro-Indian parties as well as the state of Pakistan, and India. While the Indian state project the voter turnout in favor of Indian state, and the Kashmir based political parties including the ruling party believes this vote is for development, not for the resolution of Kashmir. New Delhi based news channels and news papers forgot their journalistic ethics which they often do, when it comes to the matter of projecting India as a biggest democracy, and Kashmir as an integral part of India. While some news papers and news channels projected the voter turn out as the defeat of separatist sentiment in Kashmir, while the others wrote Pakistan should stop now taking about Kashmir, as the kashmiris have shown faith on Indian democracy. Indian president in her address to the Nation on the eve of 60th Republic day of India also projected elections in Kashmir as the Kashmiri people’s faith on Indian polity. One wonders how she could forget the protests of hundreds of thousands of people in recent Amarnath controversy when people marched to the streets of Kashmir to demand for Aazadi (independence). On the other hand this was again the time when separatist like Mirvaiz Umar Farooq, first time confessed that the governance and resolution are two separate issues ,alas had separatist leadership realized it earlier we would not have lost hundreds of lives which were killed because they either contested election or casted their vote .
Unlike this election, Elections in Kashmir were either rigged like 1987, or people were forced to vote like 1996, 2002. But amidst this rigging and coercion we could not see a large voter turn out, than this election, why? I believe the resilience of militants not to use gun against the contestants and voters is the biggest reason for large scale voter turn out , as National conference president Farooq Abdullah said in a public debate on NDTV , that if Pakistan and militants had not restrained from attacking we would not have seen this large scale turn out . But at the same time we have seen people from Srinagar, and some other small towns observing complete boycott of elections. So does this mean only people from Srinagar and other small town which observed boycott want aazadi and rest don’t? I would argue with a big No, those who voted do not want to be part of India, as the ones who did not vote; their ends are same, but the means to reach that destination can be different. If we look at the press briefings and speeches of all mainstream parties during their election campaign, either they disassociate themselves with the resolution of Kashmir conflict, and fought the election on the name of governance or they projected themselves as the facilitators for the resolution of Kashmir dispute. In both ways mainstream parties tried their best to disassociate themselves from projecting the so called glory of Indian democracy which has been very much understood by Kashmiri people from last sixty years. However at the same time, regional/religious centric parties like BJP in Jammu and PDP in Kashmir managed to win more seats on the name of religion and region, thus lays the foundation of communal politics in Kashmir, which had failed so far to take its organized form. BJP managed to win 10 seats in Jammu and none in Kashmir, and PDP managed to win 22 seats in Kashmir and none in Jammu is some how leading the state towards communal politics .
History is witness to the fact that Kashmiris have fought against those who went against their wishes .be it towering leader of Kashmir; sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who was highly praised and respected by the people of Jammu and Kashmir, unlike any of the separatist or mainstream leader of present time, but when people understood he has compromised on Kashmir cause, they went to the extent of dig his corpse out of his grave in 1990’s. The 1990 arms movement created a new leadership who started ruling people, and some times went to the extent of giving judgments on family /community disputes. A section of this community later become part of Hurriyat conference, which virtually started ruling Kashmir. Hurriyat become biggest force after 1990. But the state elections in 1996 when National conference rule was enthroned on Kashmiri people, NC workers started reaching out to people, but Hurriyat’s power did not vanish with it, it played its role and become a parallel force till august 2008, when it again got a control on the mass movement. Thanks to the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir sate S .K Sinha who forced Aazad lead Congress and PDP coalition government to transfer land to the Amarnath shrine Board, which provoked kashmiris to fight back and get land allotment order revoked. Hurriyat tried to exploit this sentiment, and convert it into mass movement for independence, but the internal politics in both the sections of Hurriyat conference disappointed people and we lost the opportunity to negotiate with India. This was the second chance when India was ready to discuss any solution after 1990, and this time we had gained support from some sections of Indian civil society. Then came the election period, not only two factions of Hurriyat but Yaseen malik , and Sajad Lone who was earlier delinking elections in J&K with the resolution of Kashmir , lost his sanity and was swayed by August protests decided to launch anti election campaign. But they got in response what they had sown. This time they could not lure people for there false claims of bringing independence overnight. So the question arises, why people voted, if they were protesting against India and for aazadi just three months back? The answer is failure of institutionalization of movement.
Almost everybody in Kashmir knows, millions were being donated by people for the Kashmir cause, but the money went to the pockets of our separatist leader’s .For twenty years of resistance they failed to create even a single school, college, library, or hospital. Families of militants and other poor people always remained at the mercy of pro India parties. Even the deceased of august 2008 protests did not receive any monitory support from Hurriyat, except some meager amount of money and award from JKLF to some of the martyrs who were killed in Police firing. With the absence of alternative support, failure of Hurriyat and pro-freedom leadership to support needy ones, people chose what they felt is better for them. They voted, but not compromised their mission to fight for aazadi, thus they proved to be masters of negotiation, unlike our Hurriyat leaders who failed to understand the ground situation. History is testimony to the fact, that those people, who vote, are the same people who were part of 1990 and august 2008 mass movements. They are the people who face the brunt of army, police, and some times the harassments by militants. They fought for independence at every point, but they have been betrayed and disappointed at every time by our separatist leadership, yet they say they vote for development, not for India. At the same time mainstream parties succeeded in delinking elections with the resolution of Kashmir, and thus projected elections for the development and solution for local problems. Thus they succeeded in bringing people out to vote. This is the lesson for Hurriyat and pro-freedom leadership, they need to do introspection and chalk out a proper strategy to lead this movement to the logical conclusion. If they are not able to do it, it is better for them to get out of the way.