The Urban Local bodies election in Indian held Kashmir are over. The counting is over and the players are being installed. Kashmir witnessed 3% of voting as most of the people did not cast their vote and completely boycotted the election. On the bases of meager voting the winners are being selected even at places where there was no opposition and no votes casted. The election gave BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) leverage over the politics in Kashmir as regional Parties including National Conference and People’s democratic party boycotted the election over the Government of India’s stand on the abrogation of article 35(a). However, the same PDP didn’t see anything wrong when they extended GST to Kashmir and hence eroded any of the remnants of autonomy or whatever was left of it. They actively participated in the local elections of Kargil Council elections. The BJP powered PDP showed no resentment over the PIL submitted to the Apex court of India during its tenure and as soon as BJP pulled from BJP, the hen started clucking.
The issues before BJP are known to everyone – Abrogation of 370 and 35 (a). That may seem a distant dream but as the things are turning out for BJP in Kashmir, it can’t be ruled out. Article 370 is included in the Indian constitution under “Temporary, transitional and special privileges”. Article 370 was pressed into Indian constitution through Presidential executive order of 1954 as what came to be known as Delhi Agreement. The article gave temporary powers & Privileges to the legislature of Kashmir. Article 35(a) is part of Article 370 and gives the power to the state legislative assembly to define the permanent residents of the state. The article empowers section 6-9 of J&K Constitution which deals with the permanent residents and immovable property. As soon as the right-wing party BJP came into power, they pressed on the issue of Article 370 and its abrogation.
Backed by Right-wing political parties and NGO’s certain PIL were submitted to the supreme court of India in favor of the abrogation. If by anyhow, whether by an executive order or Assembly, article 35 (a) is abrogated, section 6-9 of JK Constitution becomes irrelevant. However, it’s not easy. As the Delhi Agreement was being signed, Indian state was under an international obligation to hold UNSC recommended plebiscite in Indian held Kashmir. The agreement was signed between the state of Kashmir and Indian state and hence can’t be revoked unilaterally but with the concurrence of Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly.
That’s the most important part, that if anyhow BJP wins the elections in Kashmir uncontested as they won wards from South-Kashmir uncontested in Urban Local bodies elections, they’ll give concurrence to the abrogation of article 35(a). The Boycott may have worked in the past but will reap nothing further. The resistance leadership has been clinging on to the Boycott and strike politics for too long that it actually brought at their doorstep what they feared. In pre-1975 era, the Plebiscite Front and its election boycott politics helped Indian national congress to gain foothold in already politically plagued valley. It’s not hidden for anyone that the current boycott politics has helped BJP to strengthen its grass roots in Indian held Kashmir. From being a backing force of People’s Democratic Party to Sajad Lone headed People’s Conference and backing “40 vote” Ex-National Conference and current Mayor Junaid Mattoo to sweeping uncontested wards in South Kashmir, BJP has made it in the whirlpool of K-Politics. However, no matter how strong it may seem, the occupant of the political thrones and Delhi Coalitions in Kashmir are never permanent. Whenever it’s desired, they fell like the pack of cards in a tornado.
Whether it be National Conference and Indian National congress, PDP-BJP or current People’s Conference and BJP, the musical chair game of politics in IOK changes to keep the status quo and the vote bank hot. Post 1989, the age of a Delhi sponsored political party in Indian Held Kashmir is only a decade and then a new player is introduced in the game. Given the threats at the hierarchical rights of Kashmiri’s, Boycott may seem to be helping those who veil these threats. It’s obviously known to everyone that abrogation of Article 370 has been used to garner votes in the Indian subcontinent for many years even by those who are well aware that its revocation is not a walk in the park.
But, contesting elections and voting seems a hard choice for Kashmiri’s to do. Indian state uses the regional election polls to interpret its military control to the outside world. The high turnout in 2014 surely helped Indian state to portray it as an referendum in it’s favor but ignored the fact that the votes were cast in order to keep right-wing party BJP at the Bay.The elections are not a testimony of Kashmiri’s support for India or Pakistan but their vote for their regional benefits. The United nations resolution of March 30, 1951 states:
“the convening of a Constituent Assembly as recommended by the General Council of the All-Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and any action that Assembly might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State or any part thereof would not constitute a disposition.”
UN Resolution of January 24, 1957 states:
“the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.”
By that logic, the higher turnout in any election in Kashmir has nothing to do with the final political disposition of the State. With so many players at the play and switching sides from Haseeb Drabu, from trying to be the economical architect of Independent Cashmere to Sajad Lone, Mayor Junaid Mattoo once calling BJP anti-Minority to embracing it to become the Mayor on the basis of 40 Votes, Mehbooba Mufti shedding tears at the funeral of deceased Kashmiris over mocking their deaths in 2016, its obvious the ones that are in the field are representing their personal agendas. The people were never in the picture let alone their well being.
It’s a hard choice to make and harder than before. It’s time to contest elections not that we know it’ll be fair, but to try a different way. A way that can make it stronger as it’s boycott only made us weak. No doubt, the protests and demonstration has kept the struggle alive but has it made it stronger? No. It’s time for a beginning.
The election participation is another viable choice left for Kashmiri’s not to demand justice but to take control of their exchequer. But, then 1987 comes in the picture, when Delhi establishment rigged the elections and declared its ally National conference a winner. The members of the winning party MUF were thrown into jails and warned of dire consequences. The situation left chaos. People who had shown little faith in the electoral process of India were left speechless.
If it did happen again, it’ll expose the establishment on international platforms and if any how the Kashmiri leadership won, it’ll also expose the establishment on what the majority of Kashmiri’s want. So, either way it’s a win-win. For that, a change in leadership is required, selection of new strategies and shunning of the old plans, it’s proper execution.
But there’s to be a leadership who can think upon it or something better, probably JRL can start by opening its gates for young minds. There needs to be an introspection where people can discuss new possibilities of the struggle, new ways and new strategies. There has to be a renaissance. The question remains as for how long “the stone & Boycott” politics will continue and for when will the independent politics make its debut?