Srinagar: “India can’t apply even an iota of democracy in Kashmir by holding elections which can never be free and fair in presence of seven lakh armed forces.”
This was stated Sunday by civil society members and families of victims of the conflict in a seminar organised by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) here on Sunday.
The seminar titled “Elections Under Occupation” was held to mark the 10th death anniversary of woman human rights defender Asiya Jeelani who died in a bomb blast on April 20, 2004 in Kupwara while monitoring Lok Sabha elections along with her colleagues.
Speaking on the occasion, medical practitioner, writer and social activist Dr Altaf Mufti said that elections are roots of democracy, but root of democracy is the right to self-determination under which every human being has the right to decide what is good and bad for him or her.
“But unfortunately India has denied this right to the whole Kashmiri nation, and under such situation elections have no relevance,” said Dr Altaf.
He said that history of elections in J&K since 1947 has been “fraught with ill-will and deceit, which has been used by Indian state to misinform and dis-inform the international community about Kashmir.”
“It is usually said that election in 1977 in Kashmir was fair and largely participated by people, but I am witness that those elections were fought in the name of secessionism from India when National Conference workers would display green handkerchiefs and Pakistan rock salt asking people to vote for this,” said Dr Altaf.
He said that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in one of his letters has said that in regard of Kashmir “let morality, ethics and democracy take the backseat and national interests determined by New Delhi to supersede.”
“India is only using these elections to hoodwink international community and gets formal approval to accession after every five years. But this is propaganda and white lie, as there are UN Security Council resolutions which say that elections can never be substitute to the referendum in Kashmir,” said Dr Altaf, adding that duty of every Kashmiri is to present logic before the world that they are living “under the bondage of India and elections can’t be held fairly here under occupation of seven lakh forces whose presence is scary.”
“India can’t apply even an iota of democracy in Kashmir as democracy and occupation can’t go together,” Dr Altaf said, asking, “How can elections be fair when the state puts the pro-freedom leaders under detention and house arrests.”
Noted columnist, Dr. Javaid Iqbal on the occasion said that right to self-determination does not include political rights only, but economic and civil rights also.
“India is denying us economic rights by making us pay for electricity which is being generated in Kashmir which otherwise could have made the state self sufficient. Also civil rights are denied as we are not allowed to express ourselves and people are put under detention,” said Dr Iqbal, adding that “India is consolidating military occupation in Kashmir which can be seen from the presence of large number of firing ranges here.”
“They are being established on the pretext that they provide geo-political security to India,” said Dr Iqbal.
He said that in the past people in Kashmir were ignorant and uneducated, thus controlled by the leaders according to their wishes. “Now Kashmiris are educated and have capacity to challenge any propaganda.”
President, JKCCS, Parvez Imroz, on the occasion said that civil society has an important role to play and think “how to develop strategies to respond to elections in which there is systematic oppression.”
“It is good that political parties are calling for election boycott, but we as a civil society have to develop strategies by which we can show that how elections are nor free and fair and fraud in Kashmir,” said Imroz.
Dr. Nissar-ul-Hassan, president Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) said that people of Kashmir “need to introspect, identify their follies to remove them and institutionalize their sacrosanct resistance movement.”
“It is shame on us that still we need to sensitize the people regarding the elections and ask them to stay away from it. We have failed to institutionalize our movement,” said Dr Hassan.
He said the pro-India political parties were sabotaging the sentiments of people by saying that they are contesting elections for development issues.
Reacting to Dr Hassan’s comments that Kashmiris have failed to institutionalize their freedom movement, senior journalist Zahir-ud-Din said that “it is not true that we have failed, but we have kept our resistance alive for last 70 years with sacrifices, determination and resilience. We have produced people like advocate Jalil Andrabi, Ashfaq Majeed Wani, Mohammad Yasin Malik and many others”
He said that there are two UN Security Council resolutions regarding elections in Kashmir, so holding of elections does not have bearing on the Kashmir issue.
“We have asked people in past elections why do they vote and they said that they elect the MLAs for construction of latrines and drains,” said Zahir-ud-Din.
Others who spoke on the occasion included RTI activist Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, social activist Sayed Illiyas, Samreen, member of Support Group for Justice to Kunan-Poshpora victims, Sajad Ahmad Sofi, brother of Tahir Sofi who was killed by Army in Baramulla in 2012, Mohammad Ashraf Mattoo, father of Tufail Mattoo who died in police action in 2010, and Riyaz Ahmad, a survivor of Bijbehara massacre of 1993.