One Verses All

Despite some separatists calling it a non-issue, Geelani’s election boycott made Omar to seek New Delhi’s intervention to bypass Kashmir for mandatory NOTA option in EVM’s.  Impact apart, Geelani’s stand still makes both unionists and separatists uneasy in their shoes,  Shah Abbas analyzes 

Syed-Ali-Geelani-addressing-at-Kupwara
Syed Ali Geelani addressing a mammoth gathering in frontier district Kupwara in North Kashmir.

After Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, distanced itself  from election boycott policy, Octogenarian separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, is left alone in the field. Hurriyat (M) calls election as a non- issue but to India and the unionist parties of Jammu and Kashmir, it is not a non-issue and they are not even in favour of voters using “none of the above” (NOTA) option in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the state Congress have taken up the ‘negative’ implications of NOTA option available in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with New Delhi.

Sources said that both the parties have vehemently argued before the government of India and the Congress high command that the NOTA option in EVMs can be ‘misused’ by the separatists.

They added that Abdullah has also spoken about the issue to Union Home Minister, Sushil kumar Shinde.

“Rahul Ji assured us that the issue will be thoroughly examined by the Congress high command and a decision in this regard will be taken accordingly,” a congress minister who met Gandhi reportedly said.

State Congress is also said to have shot a number of communiqués to the Congress high command emphasizing the need to go for review of the Supreme Court judgment in context of the ‘peculiar situation’ in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Apex Court recently directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to introduce NOTA button on EVMs so that the voters have an option available to reject their votes.

“Tomorrow if separatists urge people to participate in elections and press NOTA button then it will be deemed as a referendum. This is how this option can be misconstrued and misused,” a congress leader said.

Geelani, after his release from 235 day long house arrest is out to reach public and call for a complete poll boycott. To him any kind of election process which takes place under Indian constitution affects the ongoing struggle negatively because from Srinagar to New Delhi, everybody ‘sells’ the J&K polls as a verdict in favour of India.

Worth to mention that the Prime Minister of India during his August 15, 2012 speech claimed that huge turnout in Panchayat elections in J&K was a mandate in favor of India.

“I appeal all the people not to fell prey to the petty politics of pro-India parties whether it is NC, PDP, Congress, CPI (M) or any third front and stay away from all the polls being held under Indian Constitution,” Geelani said in two apple towns of North and South Kashmir. He alleged that the hands of these parties are “drenched in blood.”

“Those who can’t protect our lives, property, resources and most importantly, the chastity of our daughters have no right to seek votes,” said Geelani, stressing upon poll boycott.

To Riyaz Masroor, a Srinagar-based journalist and commentator, “Geelani is the only mainstream lawmaker who chose resistance over elections post 1987. Ever since, and earlier too, many from the freedom camp have been crossing over to the pro-election camp but Geelani remains the lone example of someone from assembly joining Azadi movement. He sees boycott as key to resistance. But his colleagues in Hurriyat or elsewhere don’t have such political location so they tend to view elections as a non-issue”.

Chairman of the Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq sees elections as “a non issue”. Mirwaiz on the sidelines of a seminar told reporters that election was an administrative matter and it was too “premature to say anything” on boycott of 2014 polls.

“There is no talk of elections and it will be premature to say anything about it (poll boycott). Hurriyat will sit and decide on it when dates for elections are announced,” Mirwaiz said.

There are many from the unionist camp to hail the Hurriyat (M) stance over elections. The statement of Hurriyat (M) Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, about elections has been welcomed by newly formed “Amami Mutahida Mahaz” (AMM), comprising of unionist leaders like M Yousuf Tarigami and Hakim Yasin.

The-lonely-GeelaniTerming Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s statement on poll boycott, a step ahead, AMM said in a statement that the remarks of Hurriyat (M) chairman are welcome and the solution to any issue lies in a democratic process and the same gets substantiated by the global experiences.

Jammu and Kashmir is scheduled to go for Assembly polls in November 2014, however, the exercise would be preceded by Lok Sabha elections in April-May next year.

The Election Commission, like in other States, has already started the exercise for updating the voter’s list in J&K and mainstream parties have also started election preparations.

The reason Geelani’s boycott call finds no takers among separatist leaders is because of their past experiences.

“The separatist camp is going through crises, its leaders who are more than its activists differ even in their basics. These leaders are busy in belittling each other from last many years, in this situation they think to accept anybody’s logic means accepting his leadership,” a Srinagar based Journalist, Raashid Maqbool said. He added “yes, presently Geelani has been left alone in the poll boycott policy. He is unambiguous about it while as others want to see the direction of the wind.”

A political analyst while talking to Kashmir Life said that separatist camp lacks leaders who can think politically. “Just presume if poll boycott appeal of Geelani works, is it still a non-issue then?” he asked and answered “logically, no.”

Apparently, most of the leaders in the separatist camp are apprehensive that even if they call for poll boycott people will not listen to them. “So saving itself from a possible ‘embarrassment’ the separatist camp is not following the path of ailing Geelani who all alone dares to challenge New Delhi and the unionist leaders of J&K,” said Raashid.

Pertinently, people voted in large numbers during Panchayat elections held in 2011 even though Geelani had appealed people not to participate in the election process.

But to Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani, “calling for election boycott is to serve the mission of the freedom movement.”

“The missionary people do not care for the results, they just go on serving their cause and educate people, how many act upon their calls hardly matters to them,” Hurriyat (G) spokesman, Ayaz Akbar, told Kashmir Life.

He also challenged that if the leadership is allowed to campaign freely as the unionists are given a free hand to reach to the people, the overall turnout of votes will not go beyond five percent. “We have apprehensions that Geelani’s present freedom will not continue in the polling days, we challenge them (the government) if they provide a free democratic atmosphere to our leadership as is provided to the pro-Indian leaders especially during elections, not more than five percent people will vote,” Ayaz added.

He clarified that Geelani’s present campaign is a part of mass contact which remained halted for long due to his continuous house detention. “We are very serious to reach to the masses and Hurriyat does not consider statements of pro-India politicians,” Ayaz said.

But to many, election is an administrative matter and has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue. As Mirwaiz said, “election is an administrative matter and Hurriyat’s focus is resolution of Kashmir issue which is possible either through adoption of international agreements agreed to by India and Pakistan or taking all stakeholders on board to resolve the issue.”

“Any administrative initiative can’t be a solution to Kashmir dispute. Elections or no elections, or change of guard in the State or no change, Kashmir dispute will continue to remain there and polls won’t impact its disputed nature,” Mirwaiz said.

Though Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz has publicly opined against the poll boycott policy, yet another frontline separatist party, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) led by Mohammad Yasin Malik is holding its cards tightly.

Even Shabir Ahmad Shah is very cautiously talking about the subject. Shah every now and then states that separatist leaders have nothing to do with election politics but he hesitates to use the term “boycott”.

Another Hurriyat (M) rebel, Nayeem Ahmad Khan has also not said anything on the issue leaving octogenarian Geelani, all alone on the front.

But the question is that can Geelani make an impact on ground? Given the present situation and according to many political scientists “it seems very difficult.” In fact unionist parties have succeeded in involving great number of people since 2010, after the uprising.

“People of Kashmir like any other area have their worldly interests which can be fulfilled only by unionist leaders, so how it is possible in the present economic world to give away these interests,” a contractor, wishing anonymity told Kashmir Life.

But what if Geelani’s boycott call works? Will election still remain a “non-issue”? This is something that haunts many political scientists and policy makers in New Delhi.

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