Hide and Seek Politic
curtains will slide on 2014 assembly election on December 29. Two to three days after the results a new team of ministers will strut across the corridors of the grey concrete building- supposed symbol of power and authority in the state. Like all previously held elections in the state this elections will also be relegated to the footnotes of the Kashmir history. Majority of those elected like their predecessors will not be mentioned even in the footnotes. Nevertheless, this election has sparked some new debates that will continue for some time to be a tug of war between the ‘dominant discourse’ and ‘peoples discourse.’
For the Kashmir narrative, change of guard in the state or which of the ‘accessionist’ parties wins majority is of no consequences. Some highly optimistic friends looking forward for a sea change on the economic and political front after January 2015 or some columnist opining that new dispensation will work as a catalyst for pushing through a resolution of the Kashmir problem may raise their eye brows on my making a sweeping statement – dismissing even change of guard in the state as of little consequences.
My view point needs to be looked at in a historical perspective. Since 1947, the state has been ruled by three Prime Ministers for seventeen years, eight chief ministers for forty three years and directly by New Delhi for seven years. For thirty two years the state was under the rule of the regional parties, for eleven years under the rule of the “Centralist Party” (All India Congress Party) and for seventeen years the state was under coalition rule of the regional parties and the Congress party. The Congress party has directly and indirectly as a coalition partner ruled the state for twenty eight years.
Looking, dispassionately at the sixty seven years profile of the state politicians in power both of the regional and the centralist parties, it would not be an overstatement to say that none of them ever had genuine say in the political or economic affairs of the state. The real levers of power have always be in New Delhi. History is replete with instances when those slightly deviating from New Delhi’s gospel on Kashmir were shown the door. In this column it may not be possible to dwell in detail how helpless and hapless even ‘accession-politicians’ have been before New Delhi. Nevertheless, the toppling and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, removal and subsequent imprisoning of Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad in 1964 and dismissal of Farooq Abdullah in 1984 are few examples. To illustrate my point further, it would be interesting to reproduce the story of arrest of Bakshi as document by Chief Minister, Mir Qasim. ‘Chief Minister G. M. Sadiq and Mir Qasim were summoned to Raj Bhavan. Where four officers Shankar Prasad, Sushital Banerjee, D.I. G. and Joint Director I.B were waiting. Chief Minister was told to arrest Bakshi in the “national interest” for his “anti-national activities”. Chief Minister with all his reservations dubbing him ‘anti-national’ had no option but to obey orders and arrest Bakshi. (My life and Times by Syed Mir Qasim page 104-105). Notwithstanding, being counted by many elderly journalists as an ‘upright’ and ‘trusted’ man of New Delhi Sadiq also had to bow before New Delhi’s diktat.
History forebodes that by all stretch of imagination, it sounds naïve that any state chief minister-tall or dwarf will have a say in settling of the Kashmir Dispute. It would be tomfoolery to expect something beyond constructing a culvert or bridge or transferring of second wrung officers from any state government. Some television channels and newspaper columnists have been building a narrative that people not heeding the calls for boycotting the election and massively participating in the elections have thrown up their representatives who could be involved in any kind of process for amicably settling the Kashmir problem. Seeing the “low response” to election boycott call as ‘defeat’ of the sixty seven year old political movement in the state these commentators have been projecting the 2014 election as a referendum against the “movement.”
The historical reality is that election boycotts are not dovetailed to the ‘right to self-determination’. These have a different dynamics and are to be seen only as manifestation of the political resistance- as good as public protests. To understand this there is need to look into genesis of this post-1953 political phenomenon:
In 1948, GOI and Jawaharlal Nehru was pleading before UNCIP to incorporate partition of Jammu and Kashmir as solution to Kashmir Dispute. United Nations Security Council, contrary to Nehru’s expectations in 1949 adopted a resolution guaranteeing right to self-determination and called for holding of Plebiscite in the state. To offset its impact, ‘Indian officers drafted a resolution for forming of the State Constituent Assembly, Nehru vetted it and the National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah adopted it. Nehru believed as Alistair Lamb puts it
, “Elections to Constituent Assembly could be presented as a substitute to plebiscite to the world.” Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru fell apart but the Constituent Assembly continued with the framing of laws. And by October 1956 had decided upon a Constitution which was passed when its originator was in jail. Afzal Beg, who was released from jail saw this Constitution as repudiation of Indian commitment to people of Kashmir. Since the Constitution was adopted at the back of Sheikh so Afzal Beg, who by then had become founder President of Plebiscite Front boycotted the 1957 elections and all other elections that followed. In 1972 Front wanted to contest the elections but was banned. The election boycott starting from 1957 continued till 1977. In 1977 and after all and sundry participated in the elections. In 1987, the MUF, largely forerunner of the Hurriyat Conference contested the Assembly elections. These were rigged. And after these rigged elections the election-boycotts were reborn in 1990. Looking at hide and seek politics of elections in the state boycotts have emerged as a manifestation of the resistance movement. Despite, New Delhi projecting every election in the state in the international forums as ratification of accession, the comity of nations have not been buying this argument.