OCTOBER 8, 2018
The phased polls for the local bodies in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) begin today. Unfortunately, these elections have been marred by tensions and calls for the boycott of the whole democratic exercise. In fact, the situation has deteriorated to a point that New Delhi decided that an additional 40,000 Indian troops had to be deployed to the disputed territory to maintain law and order.
However, troops do nothing to add to the legitimacy of an election. Worse still are the recent arrests of notable Kashmiri leaders. These include Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), who tweeted that he had been placed under house arrest on Sunday. This was preceded by the arrest of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik on Tuesday, and APHC Chief Spokesman Ghulam Ahmed Gulzar. It should be noted that Gulzar was booked under the 1978 Public Safety Act (PSA), a piece of legislation that the UN has condemned in its June ‘Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir. According to the report, New Delhi has failed to create a standard operating procedure for the PSA. Consequently, it is widely abused in IHK, and used to illegally detain people – including children – for extended periods.
It is no surprise that these elections have no legitimacy in the eyes of the Indian people. There can be no true democracy in an environment where draconian laws are invoked to arbitrarily arrest popular leaders, preventing them from partaking in the elections, or even from criticising them. According to some reports locals have complained that they did not know who their candidates were.
Both New Delhi and Islamabad must realise that there can be no solution to the Kashmir issue until the Kashmiri people have a government that they feel truly represents them. However, with the Indian General Elections not too far away, it is unlikely that the Modi government is thinking of long-term solution to the problem at the moment. *
Published in Daily Times, September 8th 2018.