Free Elections - Free Kashmir

Category: Asia, World Affairs Topics: India, Kashmir, United Nations Views: 1549

India confronts a Kashmir Rubicon on September 16 when it commences a four-phase balloting process in the disputed territory to elect members to a Kashmiri Assembly.

If India boldly crosses the Rubicon by conducting free, fair, and transparent elections reflective of the genuine sentiments of the Kashmiri people, then a final peaceful settlement of the 55-year-old Kashmir conflict will be in sight.  If India balks at a crossing and continues its old bad habit of election rigging and denying Kashmiri self-determination celebrated in United Nations Security Council resolutions, then Kashmir will remain beleaguered by terrorism, repression, misery, and destitution.

The United States by moral suasion is urging India to opt for boldness, and reap rewards like Egypt's Anwar Sadat for speaking reconciliation in the Israeli Knesset.  The international community awaits India's choice with bated breath. Kashmir is the most dangerous nuclear hotspot on the planet and weapons proliferation in South Asia is its byword.

Free and fair elections in Kashmir would be a double blessing for India.  They would marginalize extremists and unwanted interlopers who employ indiscriminate brutal violence to oppose India's occupation; and, they would set the stage for negotiating a peaceful and final solution to the Kashmir conflict consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions.

White-hot tensions would then lessen in South Asia, terrorism would recede, prodigal arms expenditures would end, and economic development would blossom.

History speaks volumes about understanding the forthcoming elections.

In 1948 and 1949, United Nations Security Council resolutions stipulated that Kashmir's political destiny should be decided through a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations.  India's flagrant dishonoring of its plebiscite obligation sparked indigenous convulsions and disaffection in Kashmir.  India schemed to evade the Security Council's mandates by staged elections to a Constituent Assembly, which it insisted was a plebiscite substitute.

The Security Council instantly denounced the subterfuge in a 1957 resolution.  It reminded the concerned governments and authorities "of the principle embodied in its resolution that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations."  The resolution further elaborated that "the convening of a Constituent Assembly...and any action that Assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation [of Kashmir]" would be no surrogate for Kashmiri self-determination.

India, however, persisted in its colonial, anti-democratic ways in Kashmir.  Jay Parkash Narayan confided to Indira Gandhi in 1960: "We profess democracy but rule by force in Kashmir...We profess secularism but let Hindu nationalism stampede us into trying to establish it by repression...[The Kashmir] problem exists not because Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir, but because there is deep and widespread political discontent among the people."

P.K. Dave, former chief secretary of the Indian Jammu and Kashmir Government, confessed in 1991 that, Elections in Kashmir have been rigged from the beginning." 

Fraudulent elections in 1987 extinguished the last flicker of hope among Kashmiris that India would bow to a free and fair plebiscite as ordained by the Security Council.   Indigenous protest erupted in the occupied territory reminiscent of American's 1961 Freedom Riders protesting racial discrimination in the South.  In 1996, Kashmiris boycotted phony elections en masse despite intimidation by India's military.

The cure for counterfeit elections in Kashmir, however, is not more of the same, but providing the genuine democratic article.  Thus, the people of Kashmir are eager to participate in the impending elections if they are conducted with the trappings of free and fair choice.

That means six-fold assurances from India that:

  1. The elections will determine an interim administration pending execution of India's plebiscite obligation.

  2. International monitoring of the entire electoral process, including preparation of voter lists, will be guaranteed.

  3. Candidate oaths to support India's constitution and its claim of sovereignty over Kashmir will be waived.

  4. The elected representatives will be crowned with a mandate to negotiate the final status of Jammu and Kashmir with India and Pakistan.

  5. All political prisoners will be released with freedom to seek elections without fear or harassment, including the leadership of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference.

  6. India's military and paramilitary forces will desist from voter coercion or threats.

The status of East Timor was resolved in 1999 by a free and fair vote of the East Timorese.  The same, championed by the United States and the European Union, is in train for Kossovo, Montenegro, and Serbia.  The solution to Kashmir's indigenous upheaval is no different.  The irrepressible coveting of dignity, liberty, and pride that comes with self-determination knows no territorial or regional boundaries.

In sum, India could make the imminent Kashmir elections its finest democratic hour and win international acclaim.  If there are obstacles, they are self-imposed.


Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council (He has been exiled from Kashmir since 1980)


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  6 Comments   Comment

  1. Rafique Khan from USA

    People everywhere at all times have been able to govern themselves (some more successfully than others). For instance, the Romans and the Greeks had very successful civilizations for long periods of time (one may argue that current western style democracies are decendent of these systems). I am not saying that these systems are better than the Islamic system, but clearly there is no proof to say they are worse. The same goes for the economic and social systems. Also, there is no proof that people living under Islamic laws are more secure or stable than those under other systems.

    As for the verse, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. This is really a moot point (like saying someone is the best singer and this is the best song etc.)

    The world would be a better place if there was more understanding between people and less arrogance.

    Just a thought.

    As far as

  2. Manjit Singh from India

    Dear Saif and Nadeem,

    First Saif: The answer to your question is yes. Hindus and Buddhist (about 4000 and 2400 years old religions) have all foour basic principles of spirituality,politics,justice & security. Specifically for Hindus Geeta, Vigayan Baharavi Tantra, Arthashatra etc. As to burial of children and burning of wives it has been outlawed for atleast 1000 years with no Hindu scholar or Seers advaocating it.

    And do you call stoning of women progressive?

    And as for peace, security and freedom Saif Hindus working in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to built a temple in Saudi Arabia, how do you call this progrssive, Islam does not even provide other religions any freedom.

    For Nadeem:

    Nadeem it was not just sikhs it was Muslims who killed sikhs as well. And Nadeem why were you not upset whem Pakistani army killed 2 million bangladeshi muslims? (And for your info Nadeem this is the only recorded Genocide of Muslims in the world that exceeded 100,000.

    But anyhow dear friends I am not against Islam but you need to make your own faith progressive which will allow frredom for all religions and will recognise other faiths as valid belief systems, like we as sikhs recognise Islam, Hindu, Buddhists, Christians and others

  3. Saif from Not So Great Britain

    Can one of the Hindu's or Sikhs posting articles, tell me if their beliefs ever incorporated a system of governing people. Or were they secular in their nature. ie. The people worshipped in temples, and then resorted to basic human instincts for survival and pleasure. Are any of the 4000 year old so called systems capable of providing justice for Kashmir and perhaps wider to the World at large with their 'spiritual' teachings ? I say this because what right has a religion (way of life) have to rule over a region, if it cannot provide justice. I ought to give a simple example from Hinduism to elaborate: is the burial of children to satisfy the gods and the burning of the wives when their husband dies a progressive way of life ? Rather this is the regressive trend of traditional secular beliefs when left to decide on human societys. One only needs to look at the trends in contemporary social decline which does not even leave the children and old people safe, to decide on the justice of Capitalist rule. If you look to the history of Islam it has a divine Economic System, Social System, Political System and Educational System etc. and satisfies 'mans' need for spiritual enlightenment too. And yet not in it's whole history did anyone bring a single verse like one in the book from which the systems of Islam emenated. Had they done so they would have discredited 1.6 billion people on the spot. There is an unmistakable evil in the world at present and certainly the world would be under far greater peace and security under the pure system of Islam as prescribed by Allah (The One, Eternal and Absolute) and his messenger Muhammad (PBUH).

  4. nadeem shaikh from india

    with refrence to mr. manjit singh's allegations

    that muslims murdered sikhs

    during the 1947 era, sikh mobs burnt muslims by the train load , muslim women were gangraped by sikhs,

    futher islam was not around for "4000" years

    The U.S. media return to its favorite theme of whipping up the fears about Islam, writes Shekhar Deshpande

    plz go thru this article by mr. shekar deshpande

    http://206.20.14.67/achal/archive/Feb96/media.htm

    The Muslims, who are perceived as such a global threat, especially so close to Europe, were raped, tortured and killed by thousands, if not millions over the past three years. Which global threat would be expected to take that humiliation and not complain

  5. Manjit Singh from India

    Dear Alex Isa,

    Ummah is not suffering. Muslim terrorists are killing Hindus, Sikhs (my community), buddhists and christians all of whom have lived in kashmir for atleast 4000 years. Muslim kashmiris are killing fellow kashmiris in the name of Islam.

    Rather than kill in the name of islam they should focus on the welfare of all kashmiris.

  6. Alex Isa from USA

    Does anyone care?!

    The Prophet said you are one Ummah. If one part of the Ummah is in pain then the whole Ummah should feel it.