Hope and change the Modi way seems to have taken in the majority of India's voters since he was elected in May, 2014 but his message to the flood-ravaged people of Kashmir has so far been less than palatable. History has proven that candidates in the Himalayas are tall on promises but short on results, and the elections are invariably engineered to suit the status quo. This time is expected to be no different.
The hope of prime minister Modi, of course, is to put a little Vaseline on his party's long-time efforts to slip past Article 370 by simply flooding the state Assembly with members of the BJP and concocting changes through legislation that will effectively render the law null and void. First it was the river Jehlum. Now it's the BJP. Perhaps the greatest ravaging of the Kashmiri consciousness would be putting into place mechanisms and laws that will further inhibit opportunities for the long-held desire of Kashmir to hold a referendum giving it independence from India all together.
Since the first elections were held in 1951, they have been seen as obvious frauds, where the majority of seats were uncontested or votes that were somehow magically switched from one candidate to another.
With his party's recent victories in regions that aren't traditional BJP strongholds, such as in Maharashtra, home of Indian financial capital Mumbai, and in relatively industrialized Haryana in northern India, Narendra Modi's strategy can be expected to gain his party more than the 11 seats it now holds. But in the final analysis, it will not matter. Such elections do not address the open sore that bleeds with continuing violence and suffering that takes place daily in Kashmir. They do not take the place of the referendum that has been promised them for 67 years. They cannot resolve through elections the direct popular vote that is needed to determine the will of the people. They cannot enfranchise those who have already been disenfranchised through the willful refusal to grant Kashmiris this guaranteed right to self-determination. They cannot change the hearts of those who have already seen how useless and corrupt such a process has shown itself to be.
We should know that the election plan of the Modi administration has nothing to do with building a majority consensus in Kashmir. It has also nothing to do to strengthen the peace process between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership. It is designed to legitimize its illegitimate rule in the eyes of the international community.
The fact is that the real issue in Kashmir is not about elections, and it is not about an economic package or terrorism. The real issue in Kashmir is about the political destiny of the 18 million people of Kashmir, be they in Indian Occupied Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, Gilgat-Baltistan or Kashmiri expatriates..
We, therefore, put forth the following seven points that may pave the way to set a stage for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute:
i. The demilitarization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir on either side of the Cease-fire Line;
ii. Satisfying the democratic principles, the rule of law, peace and security for every inhabitant of all the five regions of Jammu & Kashmir;
iii. Repealing the draconian laws, particularly The Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act;
iv. Allowing all political parties the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and right to unhindered election campaign;
v. Requiring to sign no oath of allegiance to the Indian or Pakistani Constitutions;
vi. Deputizing an international and neutral agency like the United Nations to conduct, monitor and supervise the elections;
vii. Reassuring that the elected officials be given a mandate to negotiate a final settlement of the Kashmir conflict with India and Pakistan;
Let us hope that the leadership of both India and Pakistan as well as the world powers realize that resolution of the Kashmir dispute guarantees peace and stability not only in Kashmir but also in the region of South Asia home to one-fifth of total human race.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
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