Jammu & Kashmir – Show me the money

…when terrorists try to distort electoral verdicts by boycotts and attacks on candidates and voters one has to conclude that the perpetrators have no confidence in the popular support they claim to command.

Unsurprisingly, the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir are chickening out when it comes to proving that they have popular support. Yasin Malik’s JKLF has pulled out of what remains of the Hurriyat, after it decided to moderate its pitch by not boycotting India’s parliamentary elections. It has to go beyond – if it indeed claims to be a legitimate representative of Kashmiri popular opinion it must not shy away from proving it at the hustings. During India’s struggle for Independence did’nt the Congress and Muslim League fight elections? Does’nt Quebec express its decision to secede from Canada through democratic means?

So when terrorists try to distort electoral verdicts by boycotts and attacks on candidates and voters one has to conclude that the perpetrators have no confidence in the popular support they claim to command. Here’s an example of perversion

“It is a litmus test for the EC because it has itself said that those who want to put their point of view across democratically would be allowed to do so. The time has come to put this dictum into practice and to allow us to carry out our anti-poll campaign in the state,” JKLF chairman Mohammed Yasin Malik told a news conference. [Economic Times]

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J&K Elections, Again.Interestingly, February 2004 saw a marginal increase in violence compared with the same month of 2003. There were 60 attacks on security forces last month, compared with 53 in February 2003. 183 people died in terrorism-related violence, compared with 126 the previous year – although this was partly the result of killings of terrorists by security forces, which stood at 86, in February 2004, compared with 71 in February 2003. It is, of course, hard to draw conclusions from these figures, although they do, at face value, seem to suggest that the escalatory cycle that begins in J&K each spring has set in again. Indian intelligence officials also note that wireless stations operating from terror camps across the Line of Control have been telling their operatives to step up efforts to escalate violence during the election process. Election-time violence will confront Indian security forces with a dilemma: whether to allow voters to be coerced into staying away from the elections, or to use troops to encourage polling, and attract charges of counter-coercion.

Pakistan, of course, has good reason to allow – or even encourage – terrorists to proceed with their anti-election coercion. For all the apparent India-Pakistan bonhomie, broadcast ably by politicians on both sides during the ongoing cricket series, Pakistani strategic planners seem nervous about losing political leverage within J&K. Members of the Abbas Ansari-led centrist faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) met India’s Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, on March 27, and Pakistan has made no secret of its displeasure at this event. Significantly, this faction of the APHC has now indicated that it would not call for a boycott of the elections, as it has done for each of the elections in the past. Pakistan has clearly rejected this faction’s credentials, and has put its weight behind the hardline Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led splinter as the ‘sole representative’ of the people of Kashmir. The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi described the anti-talks Islamist, Geelani, as the ‘Hurriyat chairman’ in its invitation for the Pakistan Day celebrations here on March 23; centrist leaders like Ansari, Abdul Gani Bhat, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Bilal Gani Lone were referred to only as ‘Kashmiri leaders.’

What Pakistan chooses to do, of course, depends on just how much pressure the international community is actually able to bring to bear on it. It is at least possible that the recent institutional encouragement offered to Pakistan by the United States of America could translate into a more aggressive posture on J&K. [Praveen Swami/SATP]