Elections for J&K

Kashmir Times. Dated: 1/9/2019 11:53:09 AM

A meaningful exercise needs to fulfill the requisites of fairness, freeness and also be preceded by a sincere assurance towards dialogue, peace

Union home minister Rajnath Singh's professed desire to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously with rest of the country followed by Chief Election Commission of India fixing up a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer later this week to discuss the possibility of holding assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state generates some interest but it is too early to conclude it as a positive step. Even if the intentions are genuine and serious, New Delhi is way off its mark with respect to the scenario in the state, particularly the more troubled Kashmir Valley. Regular elections are an important element of any democratic set-up and serve the end of meeting the aspirations of the people with respect to their day to day needs. However, what is equally important is the fairness and freeness of elections, especially in a state which has had a seven-decade history of deceitful elections and imposed regimes. In this respect, the credibility of New Delhi is already under strain on two counts. One is the farcical process of urban local bodies and panchayat elections that were recently held but dished out as a major success. No amount of celebratory rhetoric can help gloss over the uncontested and unrepresented seats, the secrecy of candidates and the non-participation of two major regional political players in the elections. The second and the more important challenge for the government is to prove its sincerity after it has painstakingly made efforts to target the entire political space and demolish the middle ground by unceremoniously breaking the unholy PDP-BJP alliance over no particular grounds and forcing governor's rule upon the state, followed by governor Satyapal Malik's decision to dissolve the entire assembly to check attempts by National Conference, PDP and Congress to form a grand alliance. Such moves confirmed the suspicions of BJP's designs to finish the existing political space in the state and build a false perception of the increasing footprints of the BJP-RSS in the entire state including its Muslim majority areas.
If the proposed polls would be as farcical as the recently held local bodies polls, atleast with respect to majority constituencies in the Valley, the very purpose would be defeated. It is pertinent to remember that since almost two years, the government has been unable to hold parliamentary by-poll for the South Kashmir constituency in view of the security situation, which has only deteriorated ever since. Security aspect is vital for a free and fair elections along with the government's ability to mobilise participants. Effectively, cosmetic elections with meagre poll percentage amid high degree of violence and boycott can be held any time. But question marks are raised with respect to the possibility of holding a meaningful exercise. In the Valley, with its deepening alienation, this would be a difficult task to achieve. The far more crucial question to be addressed is whether election is the only process to ensure democratic quotient in the Valley. At a time when the government is busy pursuing an all out muscular policy in Kashmir, bulleting and pelleting not just militants but also hapless civilians or street protestors, when alienation from mainstream has transformed into full blown anger and anger in turn has inspired a rebellion, when it refuses to engage with the voices in Kashmir, reach out to the youth, listen to them or open a dialogue with them, election in any form would not only be inconsequential but be a well-fitting piece of the norm of policy of brutality. Before announcing elections, the government must first think of ways in which it can initiate the much-needed dialogue and focus on confidence building measures that can be immediately taken to that end.



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