The Politics of Boycotts Is boycotting the right way to assert one's existence

Everyone has right to his dreams- even pipe dreams.  Jamal – the great hashish smoker in our locality too had his dreams. Many times, sitting on shop fronts, he soliloquized and made his dream of becoming the chief executive of the state and replacing the “tailor’s son”, known to passersby and dizzy friends sharing his pipe.   Jamal committed no sin, anyone can dream of becoming the chief executive- And for wishing to be the chief executive or getting a berth in temple of “democracy” there is no need for stoking a debate or conjuring discourses that are not holistically in conformity with the  with historical realities and run contrary to the established ‘Kashmir narrative.’ 


‘Is boycotting the elections right politics or participation in 2014 Assembly election is the correct option.’ For past couple of months some leaders of a faction of APHC ostensibly working for the resolution are engaged in this debate. This is not a new phenomenon every time   elections for the State Assembly or six Parliaments seats are announced argument for and against boycotting these galore. Now for past fifty-seven years this electoral hide and seek has been going on in Jammu and Kashmir.  In the post-1947 scenario, the politics of boycotting the Assembly election was introduced by the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front, mother organization of the present National Conference. Many other organizations not conforming to the ‘finality of the accession’ of the state copycatted the politics of the Front and boycotted elections- the latest in the row was the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.  

In line, with the politics of the Front, this assortment of trade unions, religious and political parties denounced    the elections held in the state as “sham elections”.  It published the White Papers and lot of literature detailing how the Parliament and Assembly elections were being used as tools of “propaganda” at the international level and defeating the “struggle for plebiscite”. In his introduction to the White Paper issued on Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, 1996, then Chairman of united APHC, Umar Farooq, wrote that these elections were held to “confuse and becloud the international opinion about Kashmir issue”. Earlier, the APHC had issued a similar White Paper on the Parliament elections and called these as a “big joke.” Notwithstanding, the divide within the conglomerate on boycotting the   2002 elections in the state , some leaders of the combine  had vigorously campaigned against participation in these elections and were imprisoned and those who had mellowed down escaped incarceration. 

The story of some parties and leaders first, boycotting and then participating in the elections is long and chequered one. In this column, given to constraints of space, it may not be possible to dwell in detail how and why Plebiscite Front boycotted the elections or many other organization demanding plebiscite jumped over the Janata bandwagon – a right wing coalition with good some of its constituent calling for even abrogation of 370. 

Here, it would be pertinent to mention that whenever political parties standing for right to self-determination wished to partake in the Assembly elections. New Delhi the terms of reference for participation – the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front is a classical example. In 1972, it made simultaneously two announcements, one, subtly dropping the demand for right to self-determination, stating the dispute was not over the truth of accession  but about quantum of accession. Second, it announced about its readiness for holding dialogue with New Delhi, and decision to contest the elections. Instead of encouraging the organization to contest the election, the GOI banned it.    In his biography, Syed Mir Qasim writes, ‘the party was banned to deny its leadership to start a dialogue with New Delhi from the “position of strength.” (My life and Times by Syed Mir Qasim page 132-133). New Delhi’s strategy worked and the Front leadership bowed without resistance and surrendered demand for plebiscite in lieu of power- without even   semblance of dignity, leaving people to suffer uncertainty with more miseries. Forty-one years after, a section of leadership in Kashmir has a resurrected almost a similar discourse that had concluded with erecting of an epitaph in the Mujahid Manzil: Here lie peoples sacrifices buried. 

Nevertheless, the discourses of 2013 are different from those during early seventies in much as efforts are being made for delinking the elections for the State Assembly from the “Kashmir Dispute”. Two discourses are concurrently being articulated against the high-pitched election boycott calls of Syed Ali Geelani, one, ‘participating in elections does not mean you are pledging to New Delhi” and two, ‘elections for the State Assembly have no bearing on the Kashmir dispute’. 

These points of view need to be examined in the context of two important documents that are supposed to be their basis, one the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and Second, UN Resolution No 122 of 1957 adopted on January 24, 1957.’ The two documents are not in tandem with each other as some leaders are trying to make us believe but are in total conflict with each other. In November 1956, the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly had declared that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be integral part of India.” The United Nations through its above quoted resolution did not approve the action of the Constituent Assembly. Confirming its earlier resolutions guaranteeing right to self-determination to people of the state and providing mechanism for determining the future of the State, the UN declared, “that convening the Constituent Assembly  …and any action that Assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation …. would not constitute disposition of state ……”. This often-quoted UN Resolution in support of argument that the participation in the elections does not have   any bearing on the Kashmir issue by relating to the elections in the state is quoted out of context, as it had not approved the very action of the Constituent Assembly.  

The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as adopted adopted on 17 November 1956, in part II clause 3, proclaims that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be integral part of the Union of India. No person can be member of the Assembly unless he declares on oath twice, at the time of filling nomination papers and on being elected that he will bear ‘true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the State and will uphold sovereignty and integrity of India.’… For being in the State Assembly, you cannot have luxury of owing allegiance to both the UN Resolutions and the State Constitution.