Election Commission and Kashmir

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With the Election Commission of India having ruled out postponement of elections in Jammu and Kashmir the double standards of the organization have been once again exposed. The norms, standards and principles of polity as are applicable to other parts of India stop right at the Lakhanpur. The decision of the Election Commission of India not to hold elections in the tortured state of Gujarat up to close of current year has been hailed by majority of the political parties. Credibility of the Commission in the estimation of people in India in particular and world in particular had gone very high. The annoyance of the ruling BJP for not adhering to its diktats have added to the stature of the Election Commission.

But, the statement made by the Chief Election Commissioner on Monday in Srinagar that the situation in the trouble torn state of Jammu and Kashmir was absolutely conducive for conducting of the elections has put a big question mark on the impartiality of this important national institution. What has been the criterion for making such a sweeping statement before the Chief Election Commissioner? On an average the militancy related death toll continues to be the same as it used to be some years back. The fear amongst the people in the border towns particularly that along the Line of Actual Control has not at all diminished. The fear of the renegades, Special Operations Group of the State Police and militants continues to rule supreme in the public mind. Thousands of people of the state continue to live as refugees across the Line of Actual Control and different parts of country. By Kashmir standards the situation in Gujarat is absolutely normal.

The announcement made by the Chief Election Commission might have disappointed the Kashmir Committee leaders particularly Mr. Ram Jethmalani who had proposed postponement of the elections to ensure greater public participation. The decision of the Election Commission might have disappointed idealists in the Kashmir Committee but they need to realize that ” Kashmir is different”. In fact it is this cliché that is the key word to New Delhi’s Kashmir policy. The abrupt announcement about holding elections in the state by the election commission a month earlier was seen as having been done to the advantage of the ruling National Conference. It would not be inappropriate to join the chorus that the results of these elections are a foregone conclusion.

To ensure its victory in the polls the National Conference had taken adequate measures well in advance. It has installed its supporters in the state administration as District Development Commissioners in almost all the important Districts. Through the medium of technical quota it swelled the ranks of the middle level in the Kashmir Administrative Service with its staunch party workers and supporters. The party affiliations and family lineages of the newly elevated officers to Indian Administrative Services are no secret. What has been amazing is the statement made by Chief Electoral Officer in a press briefing on Tuesday that it had asked the State Administration to make some transfers in the administration. In an administration, which is highly politicized making a few transfers would not ensure a free and fair election. There are indications that free and fair elections in the state would be only a pipe dream.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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