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Self-determination Vs Elections

Posted by ubaidmushtaq on June 9, 2009


Elections, meant for local governance can not be an alternative to plebiscite. The movement for right to self determination has its own logic and conducting elections cannot impinge upon it, writes Ubaid Mushtaq

Since 1947, India has been using all sorts of State apparatus to track down Kashmir freedom seekers and annihilate them eventually. Hundreds and thousands of military personnel are posted in Kashmir and every part of Kashmir is infested with Indian terror agents. According to official announcements, there are some 700 militants in Kashmir; why India need lakhs and lakhs of military personnel in Kashmir? India seems to follow the imperial logic: if USA could occupy Afghanistan and Iraq and its military ally Israel could “own” Palestine and other Arab lands and even could keep attacking and killing Palestinians, why India could not terrorize Kashmiris, occupying their land.
Even when diplomacy is being preferred by many states to resolve their mutual disputes, India still tries military option to quell the freedom struggle in Kashmiris. While India believes that military solution is a must for Kashmir, it keeps telling Sri Lanka that there is no military solution to Lankan Indians fighting for a separate state for them to be aligned with Indian in due course. No one seems to bother as India determinedly pursues military solution to Kashmir conflict killing innocent Kashmiri Muslims day in day out. Obviously, cash rich India continues to challenge UN and UNSC that have criticized its policies and actions in Kashmir recently. One doesn’t know if India seeks to make a show of its military power to
defenseless Kashmiris or to the world, especially Pakistan and China, or, alternatively, it intends total destruction by this kind of misadventures in Kashmir.
All people have the right of self-determination by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development; this is enshrined in a International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to Self-determination is commonly used to justify the aspirations of an ethnic group that self-identifies as a nation towards forming an independent sovereign state. It is not restricted only to people under colonial rule and to particular timeframe of history, but to all people in all times.
It is amazing to see that self-determination movements which led to national freedom to most of the nations in Asia and Africa from colonial rule are now looked upon as a force of primordial nature. The modern Nation-States, like India, justify that right to
self-determination of the people living under colonial rule can only be exercised once to restore sovereignty to people and is never to be used again. This makes sense in terms of political interests of sovereign states who are concerned about their territorial integrity. As a result both coercive state apparatus, as well as benign policies are used to suppress the self-determination movements; human rights violations on one side and economic packages on the other hand. One more gimmick that is used to sabotage and nullify these movements at national and international level is the holding of elections for local governance and considering participation of people at par with their right to self-determination.
The regular election process in India is considered as a scale to measure the success of its democracy, when compared to other South Asian states. The discourse on elections has been also used to bring the places like Kashmir and North-east into India’s democratic experiment. The Indian state have always pleaded a case that people participating in elections in these troubled areas is indication of the acceptance of India’s sovereignty. In case of Kashmir, elections have been claimed to be equivalent to plebiscite as it gives Kashmiri people a political choice to choose their representatives. By considering local elections equivalent to plebiscite, which is backed by UN resolutions, is not only to make fun of principle of
self-determination but also shows political immaturity.
If participation in legislative elections were to be the criterion, the involvement of Indians in the British legislatures (between 1909 and 1946) would have to be accepted as popular verdict in favor of perpetuation of British Raj. Elections presuppose the allegiance of Kashmiris to the Indian Constitution. Which is never accepted by any Kashmiri? The UNSC in its resolutions 91(1951) and 122 (1957) has unequivocally declared that convening of the Constituent Assembly in Kashmir and its decisions, thereafter, would not prejudice the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the will of people expressed through a free and impartial plebiscite. Though elections do not pose any challenge to the Indian Constitution or its territorial integrity, but at times it was to check the leadership who challenged the legality of the Instrument of Accession. Rigging the elections has been the rule than exception in J&K. On and off there were installation of puppet regimes that were loyal and served the interests; even Nehru’s good friend Sheikh Abdullah was not spared. One of the reasons for alienation of Kashmiri people is figured out to be failure of democratic principles, like free and fair elections. It has been the rigging of 1987 elections that is said to have proved ignition point for the present uprising against Indian State.
The Separatist leaders, including United Jihad Council (UJC) head Syed Salahuddin, who participated in elections in past, talk about the electoral malpractices and failure of Indian democracy. But the failure of Indian State in conducting free and fair elections cannot be considered as reason enough to politicize Kashmiri people for the demand of self-determination. Does it mean that if there would have been a history of free and fair elections, there would have been no movement of self-determination? And should Kashmiris stop this movement of self-determination if in future elections are fair? The answer is no! It is important for the Separatist leaders to be articulate enough when they reason out the causes of the movement and not follow the discourse, which is essentially faulty.
Now looking at the present scenario in Kashmir, the implicit debate over Self-determination vs. Elections is once again in air. The pro-India political parties are energetically preparing their grounds for the coming elections. On the one hand these parties are talking about development and good governance, and on other hand they are busy in accusing each other of human rights violation and corruption. It is noteworthy that these parties, particularly NC and PDP have taken up the slogans which used to be in the domain of Separatists. The issues of human rights, demilitarization, making LOC irrelevant, joint management and even double currency are being discussed in the political rallies of PDP. Even these pro-India parties are aware of the fact that building of dams, roads and highways in Kashmir is not going to bring sense of Indian-ness, though people need them for their requirements. The pouring of resources and lot of investments is not going to make the basis of self-determination less valid.
So far as coming elections are concerned, there has been a change in the in general thinking, and everybody has come out openly for election boycott campaign except some pro-Delhi parties. Elections cannot be compared with self-determination and it is a matter of local governance only. It also becomes important for Separatist leaders, like Geelani and Mirwaiz who lead poll boycott campaign to reason out logically this boycott at different public spheres and not only at Mosques. The Separatist leaders have the responsibility to indulge in these debates of ‘Self-determination vs. Elections’ to make their position clear to people. There is need for every group to come to a common platform to impress upon people that there is unity in them over the basic issues of self-determination; and explain the reason for opting self-determination over elections.
One should be very realistic in accepting the disputed nature of the Kashmir. All those who have watched recent peaceful protests in Kashmir should realize the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, because every class and section of society, including doctors, lawyers etc. came out with only one slogan: Self-determination.
Kashmir was never under the British rule and has a separate history. I ask the so called Indian intellectuals to go back to the history of the world and refresh the objective information that nobody could stop the massive public uprisings, and right of self determination anywhere in the world.



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