The recent one hour long meeting between Mufti Mohd. Syed, the patriarch of Peoples Democratic Party and Dr. Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minster of India might have sent jitters up the spine of National Conference leaders-but the minutes of the meeting is a sad reflection of the disempowerment of people of Kashmir. Mufti had to urge (read beg) Manmohan to ensure that the next elections in J&K are free & fair unlike 2008 elections, which according to him were rigged. It is also an admission of the fact that even in matters of holding fair elections which culminates in installing a political structure, It is New-Delhi whose writ runs large.
The election history of J&K, right from day one, is replete with malpractices, rigging & manipulations. The first elections, meant to constitute the constituent Assembly, were held in September 1951 and because of the electoral boycott, which even included Jammu’s Praja Parishad (later days Jan Sangh) ,73 out of 75 members of this Assembly were elected unopposed. In two other seats- Habba kadal and Baramullah – two independent candidates, Shiv Narian Fotedar and sardar Sant singh giyani challenged the official candidates of the National Conference. Both these non-Muslim candidates were dubbed as Pakistani agents and mauled and hauled to such a degree by the NC cadres and state machinery that they had to withdraw from the contest to save their lives. In the result all the 75 seats were bagged by NC uncontested. Noted Columnist & jurist A.G. Noorani, once wrote in The Statesman, that Sheikh Abdullah rigged the polls with merciless efficiency, drawing grateful applause from Nehru. His advice to the Sheikh’s successor, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, was to emulate Sheikh but to leave just a few seats for the Opposition and thus provide a fig-leaf to cover the nudity of ravaged credibility. Even India’s intelligence Chief, Mr. B.N. Mullick, exposed the government’s method of rigging the election: He says "Nomination papers of most of those who could form an opposition were rejected."
The election were again held in 1957, 1962,1967 & 1972. On each occasion the Indian-sponsored All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference/Congress was declared victorious winning nearly all the seats . On all these occasions, the government machinery was completely and unhesitatingly used in support of the ruling party; The main opposition party,” plebiscite Front” had either boycotted the elections or was banned from contesting (1972). Other opponents were either prevented or disqualified on flimsy and frivolous grounds; the few dauntless candidates who dared to stand for the contest were mercilessly beaten or kidnapped; "Peace brigade", a rag tag force of musclemen created by Bhakshi Gulam Mohd., (Comparable to present day Ikhwanis created by Farooq Abdullah) were employed to intimidate voters; and whenever strong arm methods failed, the ballot boxes were tampered with enabling polling officers to declare the victory of the official Party men". The association of name of an infamous officer, Abdul Khaliq DC with MLAs of the time is still remembered by people.
The veracity of these elections has been aptly summarized by B.K.Nehru, a Cousin of Indira Gandhi & former Governor of J&K when he says in his book -Nice Guys Finish Second; pp. 614-15."From 1953 to 1975, Chief Ministers of that State of J&K had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimized by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi’s nominee was elected by huge majorities." – According to P.S.Verma ,in his book “J&K at political crossroads” "All the periodic elections in the state have repeated the same old story of illegal rejection of nominations, proxy voting, booth capturing, beating and abducting rivals, disrupting public meeting etc. The entire democratic process has been strangulated and trampled time and again by the local zealots to serve their narrow political ends. These perversions in the long run have not only ridiculed the electoral process but also contributed to the spurt of fundamentalism, subversion and militant violence in the state". Even India’s then Home Minister, Mr. Inderjit Gupta, while talking to the press in August of 1996, and as reported by the BBC India Service, acknowledged " in Jammu and Kashmir all elections held to date were rigged to serve the interests of successive Congress governments."
Subsequent elections held till date have also suffered the same fate to protect Indian interests in the State. Even the most admired & up-right chief Election Commissioners have acquiesced in the process of rigging elections under the so-called template of National interest. As Wajahat Habibullah states in his book-“My Kashmir –page 62 “The Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, admitted before me that the Commission has remained constrained regarding Jammu and Kashmir by the need to avoid compromising national security”.
New-Delhi’s Kashmir Mantra is simple & time tested. In its scheme of things, Kashmir has to be managed on the basis security inputs & not through a genuine democratic political process. Who else, better than Mufti knows that since 1947 this state has been ruled by the likes of B.N.Mullicks & Hassanwalias. And that is what has also been confirmed recently by Mr. Jai Ram Ramesh, Union Minster of Rural development.
Mufti Sahib- what the people of Kashmir aspire for is a final resolution of the Kashmir dispute? They cannot commit their next generation to the mayhem & blood bath witnessed since decades. Please urge the PM to fulfill this aspiration than crave for free & fair elections and if you are successful- you will be remembered as a visionary statesman till eternity rather than be in the hot seat for few years.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E Mail: email@example.com)