Vote Or Not To Vote Dilemma of the separatists

B L Saraf
Election bugle is yet to be sounded in  J& K but the  murmuring cracks in  the   ranks of the separatists are loud and clear.  Ghost of elections   has been set at  large. Some want to drive it away while   others  want  time to take on.  A  section  of them   wants  the Kashmiris  to shun the elections whereas  the other is not enthusiastic about the boycott call. For 23 years the Hurriyat  leaders have held the line of    meaningless  resistance and have gone  wherever the train  of events has carried them, conveniently justifying their, often , contradictory stance at the places they happened to be. The fight, if in reality there was one, has well  and truly gone out of  the spirits. Once choicest   the words, Azadi, plebiscite, self-determination have gone out of the separatist’s jargon, and  have  been,  seamlessly, replaced by “to  boycott or  not  to    boycott the elections” narrative.  So, very a  few found it baffling  when, once ardent fan of Geelani,    Asiya Andrabi  ( Dukhtraan chief)    recently berated Hurriyat Leaders of every hue that they have  “failed  Azadi -loving  people and that their hartal calls have lost sting and heat.” For a poor   gullible Kashmiri, who was taken on a garden path by the dream merchants,  the things have come to such a pass that he finds his predicament quite similar to  that of   the bard;
Inn  Ankhun  Ney  Kya  Kya  Tamasha  Na   Dekha
Haqeekat  Main  Jou  Dekhna  Tha   Na  Dekha
After his  release from the   preventive custody, Syed  Ali Shah Geelani, the octogenarian Hurriyat (G  ) leader,   has gone to the town with the cry ‘boycott the elections. ‘ Release of  Geelani and his  peaceful  protestations so far  is, indeed, a welcome development. He has been   exhorting  the  people, who come to hear him, to stay away from the upcoming pools.  He   maintains that  the elections   will not  change  the ‘ disputed   nature of J&K ‘   but his grouse is that  the GOI   ” uses them  to hoodwink  the international community.” He feels   the elections defame ” our   movement  “. Geelani  goes on to say , ”  In  2012 the Prime Minister  of India  during his August 15 speech  claimed  that huge turnout in Panchayat elections was a mandate  in favour of democracy. So we should remain vigilant  and not give  them any chance to defame   our  movement . “Then he  says” those  who can’t protect our lives, property, chastity of our daughters  have no right to seek votes. “Here, he may have a point.
Contrast it with what the leader  of other faction of the Hurriyatt (M ) Mirwaiz Ummar Farooq  has to say on the issue. He said that the election was an administrative matter in  J&K and it would be premature to say  anything on boycott of 2014 elections. Making his differences  with Geelani clear on the issue, Mirwaiz  said  Polls   were  ” non -issue “for the Hurriyat, the election was  an administrative matter   and no way it can  impact  the Kashmir issue. Therefore, he didn’t endorse  the boycott call. Another separatist leader Maulana  Ababas   Ansari  described Geelani’s release   a move” to enforce the election boycott call in Kashmir which always proves beneficial  to the ruling party.”
It  is  a common view of both  Geelani  and  Mirwaiz that the election is an  administrative process   which   has been going on in the state for decades together.    It  has not changed the character of  the  ‘political’    dispute. Geelani  argues so in favour   of   his  boycott call,  whereas   Mirwaiz  puts forth  the view in opposition of the boycott call. Election in Kashmir, even Chief  Minister Omar Abdullah says,  is for  the redressal  of  Bijli,  Panni and Sadak  matters only.  They are the  issues which, urgently, concern  every person  in the state.
Therefore a common man  has  a vital  stake in choosing   a   Government that ameliorates    his condition. ‘Political’ settlement of the issue can wait.
Importance of elections cannot be  undermined . So,  why  not   let a citizen exercise  his choice at the hustings.  How can a person call in question   action or inaction of the Government that affects his rights when he has taken no part in its formation? Democracy  is  about ideas ,  and  means     governance by  discussion .   Everyone must have the space   to express his views.  Election  grants that space  and opportunity to the people to have what they deserve   most. It is a way to  remove  injustice and inequalities .  Injustices  of varied  nature  rule supreme in the state,  afflicting    an  excruciating pain to the most of us. Every one of us would be benefitted to   know  that   man’s  capacity for justice makes democracy  possible; but   ruler’s inclination to injustice makes democracy  necessary. Election is the soul of  democracy. If anyone feels so he can resort to NOTA option, now available.
It is extremely  painful to note that survivorship bias has crept, so strongly, into the thinking of all the separatist  leaders. More so,  in the case of Syed Ali Geelani. He has been grossly over estimating his chances of success. It is time that the separatist leader  pays  a   visit to  the cemeteries, spread across the Valley,  where  hundreds of  young men / women  are buried;  and introspects coolly,  in  a  dispassionate atmosphere, so  that henceforth    he may  guard against the wanton death and destruction  of the innocent Kashmiri youth   which  the  politics  of gun has brought  in.  It is time to reaffirm faith in the  dictum  ” the ballot is stronger than the bullet.”  We have seen lot of bloody  bullets.  Now, let us give a chance to the  peaceful  ballots .
The author is Former  Pr, District  & Sessions  Judge

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