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Sabotaging polls in J and K

Sabotaging polls in J and K

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: September 13, 2002
URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/130902-editorial.html

Nobody could have believed that the coming polls in Jammu and Kashmir would pass off peacefully. After all, Pakistan and its lackeys in the Valley were committed to play the spoilsport. Holding of free and fair elections in the State would knock the bottom out of their propaganda that India is the `colonial power' in Kashmir and that we are holding on to the State against the wishes of the people of Kashmir. We are not.

It is utter nonsense to suggest that elections in J and K are rigged, though it must be said that the recent vote in the presidential referendum in Pakistan was wholly rigged. It saw the military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, win by an overwhelming majority, thanks mainly to the stuffing of the ballots organized by various brigade commanders. Nonetheless while the General acquired a cloak of legitimacy through that fraudulent referendum, he and his ISI-led cohorts are determined to condemn the coming polls in J and K as a great sham. It was to buttress those claims that the ISI operatives had stepped up their violent activities in the Valley since the beginning of the poll process.

They were opposed to the polls in J and K not only because they had known little democracy in their own country. But they also sought to foil the democratic process in Kashmir because a successful poll there would negate their hollow claim over it. The murder of J and K Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone on Wednesday was clearly aimed at disrupting next week's first phase of polling in the State. Lone and six others were killed while he was addressing an election rally in the Lolab valley. Lone was the National Conference candidate for the Lolab Assembly constituency. The Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lakshkare-e-Taiba, claimed responsibility for Lone's murder.

Last week an independent candidate, Shaikha Abdul Rahman, from Handwara constituency had been gunned down by the terrorists. In stepped up terrorist activity on the eve of the first phase of the J and K poll, terrorists also attacked the house of the State Tourism Minister, Sakina Ittoo in Anantnag district. On Wednesday too National Conference workers were attacked in Baramulla district. Quite clearly, the militants have pointedly targeted the leaders of the National Conference. So far the ruling party has lost 13 men to terrorists' bullets.

One worker each from the Congress Party, the Peoples' Democratic Front and the CPI(M) had been killed by the terrorists. Three supporters of independent candidates had lost their lives in the violence unleashed by the terrorists groups. The killings are meant to spread panic among the contestants and warn their supporters to stay away from the poll process. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's brother, Mustafa Kamal, who is contesting from the Gulmarg constituency, escaped a murderous attack. Two other candidates survived similar attacks elsewhere in the Valley.

Prime Minister Vajpayee, now in New York in connection with the meeting of the UN General Assembly, and other government leaders condemned these attacks as an attempt to sabotage the democratic process in J and K. Given the keen interest in the ongoing poll process by the international community, it was heartening to note the unequivocal condemnation of the murder of the J and K Law Minister by the British Foreign Office. Britain supported the `holding of free, fair and inclusive elections in J and K.' Other western nations who were clossly observing the poll process in J and K too were forthright in condemning the mindless murders.

In spite of massive security measures, the truth is that during cam-paigning candidates cannot be fully secured against the threat of attacks by terrorists groups. Wednesday's murderous attack against Lone, for instance, was allegedly carried out by a 14-year-old boy who had mingled with the small crowd of supporters who had gathered to attend his election rally. Given the porous borders with Pakistan, and the latter's open incitement of those out to sabotage the polls at all costs, the candidates in the poll fray and their supporters were at a certain risk, but it was for the authorities to ensure their safety.

Unfortunately, the State has failed to make foolproof arrangements for the safety of the candidates and ordinary voters. Yet, it appears that ordinary people are enthusiastically participating in the democratic exercise to elect their government for the next five years. The election of such a government in the face of grave mischief by Pakistan will prove to be the best tribute to those who have become martyrs to the cause of democracy in Kashmir.

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