On Poll Boycott Calls and Threats
In Kashmir, every time election dates are announced the Hurriyat immediately follows it up with a poll boycott call and after each and every election is over, both the center and Hurriyat claim victory. While the former interprets public participation in elections as outright ‘rejection’ of secessionist ideology, the latter cites the low level of voter turnout as irrefutable proof of the peoples’ non acceptance of what it refers to as “Indian ‘occupation.” Thus, even though it may sound odd, but the fact is that election is probably the only thing in Kashmir that is celebrated as a ‘victory’ by both the center as well as the separatist conglomerate!
Hurriyat (G) Chairman SAS Geelani’s has consistently maintained that the center uses elections in Kashmir to endorse its “brutal suppression” as well to “hoodwink” the international community. However, if what Geelani sahib is saying is true then we have a serious problem on our hands because lack of any global outrage against elections which is nothing but a “vast military exercise” in “brutal suppression” only goes to show that New Delhi may have actually succeeded in hoodwinking the international community.
So the question which arises is that how come the extremely intelligent and observant international community can be fooled so easily? How can the world even fail to take note of what (in Geelani sahib’s words) is “Indian barbaric attitude to suppress the political will and freedom sentiments of the people of Kashmir by using its military might in full scale”?
The apathy of the international community towards the Kashmir issue isn’t new and thus there is a need to examine why even those countries who boast about their unconditional commitment towards ensuring worldwide observance of human rights are so reluctant to intervene. Our leaders have been quick in blaming vested diplomatic and economic interests as the reasons that make nations turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Kashmir.
Even though this reasoning has a lot of merit, but in today’s world of intense economic interdependence, no country can afford to treat the other as a pariah and India hasn’t yet reached the stage where it can influence the international community to isolate a nation. Thus, to believe that fear of enraging New Delhi is the sole reason why the international community avoids getting involved in resolving the Kashmir issue may be a bit farfetched.
While there’s no harm in searching for external reasons that are dissuading countries from playing their rightful role on the issue of Kashmir, there is also a pressing requirement to look inwards. And since the aim of doing so is only to find any internal fault-lines and not to belittle any person or organisation, this effort can only succeed if our approach devoid of any ego related issues and any other extraneous factors. So let us first take up the issue of poll boycott calls that are invariably given by the Hurriyat.
This time Geelani sahib has appealed to the people to boycott elections “in order to defeat the ill designs of Indian imperialism” but this reasoning doesn’t seem to have found any support within the global community. The Hurriyat (G) chairman must surely be having good reasons that back the views he has expressed but since the international community considers holding of elections and imposing imperialism as the two extreme ends of the political spectrum, the global community is unlikely to believe that imperialism can be promoted by elections.
Next comes the warning issued by Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Its commander Riyaz Naikoo has directed people to “stay away from the elections and poll rallies.” However what is even more damaging is his admission that “We have been at war with the people who participate in the election process, and the war will continue. We will treat them as we have been doing in the past.” The HM has even gone a step further by putting up posters stating “Our commander Riyaz Naikoo has told you time and again to desist from polls but some people don’t listen.”
By mentioning that “the time is over, now we will act against them (those who cast their votes) and put their videos in public,” the HM has revived horrific memories of graphic ‘execution videos’ that it had posted on social media in the past. While these threats may discourage people from voting, the international community will surely take a very serious view of the brazen manner militants are intimidating their own people through threats of physical harm and as such New Delhi will automatically gain global sympathy that is due to a ‘victim of terror’!
To make matters worse, Naikoo’s reasoning that “Those who will vote in the elections will be ‘gaddaar’ (traitors) as your vote will strengthen India,” is a justification that the international community will never accept. It’s quite likely that a large section of the population may have stayed away from polling due to their own personal reasons and not particularly because of threats issued by militants. However, in light of militant threats even poor voter turnout will still appear to be something spectacular and a great achievement as New Delhi can now boast that despite boycott call given by separatists and death threats issued by militants, many Kashmiris still came out to cast their votes!
The series of murderous assaults on candidates and grenade attacks on polling stations are unfortunate as these will only help in reinforcing New Delhi’s claim that the Hurriyat and militants don’t believe in the democratic process and using threats to deny people their right to vote. It will also provide the center with a convincing justification that in order to ensure safety of voters, bringing additional security forces into Kashmir during elections is inevitable. This in turn will completely negate the Hurriyat’s allegation that elections in Kashmir are merely a “military exercise.”
The harsh reality is that just like ‘hartal politics’, the ‘poll boycott’ campaign has achieved nothing and only harmed the ‘self determination’ struggle. Our leaders complain about “shrinking political space” in Kashmir but still have no reservations while giving poll boycott calls. They denounce elections on the grounds that it’s a “military exercise” to compel people to vote and hoodwink the international community but yet they don’t disapprove of death threats issued by militants for discouraging people from voting.
Militants attacking candidates and polling booths as well as threatening to kill locals who venture out to vote is something that will not go unnoticed. Consequently, the claim made by Islamabad and the Hurriyat that militant groups in Kashmir are engaged in a “freedom struggle” that is justified and can’t be equated with terrorism as it is directed against ‘Indian oppression” of the Kashmiri people, will be viewed by the international community with extreme skepticism.
Thus, it’s time our leaders introspect on the issue of poll boycott calls while militants reconsider their policy of issuing threats to kill those who dare to cast their votes because while such acts don’t achieve anything worthwhile, they cause immense harm to the Kashmir cause. So let’s put an end to the unproductive election game involving imaginary crowns of ‘grace’ and ‘humiliation’ that only stimulates egos and not the ‘self determination’ movement!
The writer is a New Delhi based columnist and can be reached at [email protected]