Thu. May 23rd, 2019

Why I voted; but voted NOTA

Ashiq Hussain Bhat

Thursday April 18, 2019 was the polling day for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency. Contrary to my habit of not venturing out of home on voting day, this time I left out early in the morning and cast my vote. Why? Because I wanted to register my dissent against election boycott theory in a different way. Uphill now I only wrote against it but never actually voted. Although I voted against boycott yet I did not vote for any particular “mainstream” candidate. I pressed the NOTA button because I do not consider “mainstream” politicians worth the vote. As of now major “mainstream” politicians of Kashmir are indignant with New Delhi because they consider the latter responsible for shunting them out of power. Being in a hurry to enter the corridors of power and knowing that for achieving this objective they needed votes, they have of late started projecting themselves as protectors of the rights of State Subjects (Permanent Residents). And knowing full well that there being no one to impart political education to Kashmiris, they indulge in wildest possible political rhetoric to extract their votes.
Miss Mehbooba Mufti of PDP states that once the BJP abrogates Article 370 the J&K State would become legally and constitutionally independent of India.
However, BJP is not a bunch of muddle heads as she wishes us to believe. They will abrogate Article 370 with the concurrence of J&K Legislative Assembly with the exception of Article 1 which definces the territory of India and which applies to J&K through Clause 1 (c) of Article 370. Once Article 1 is kept directly applicable J&K State and the rest of Article 370 abrogated, the State will get merged with India because in that case the Constitution of India will apply automatically to J&K. Omar Abdullah of NC boasts that if he comes to power he would amend the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir to replace Indian Governor with Sadri-Riyasat (President of the State). The institution of Governor was set up in J&K in 1965 through an amendment to the Constitution of J&K replacing native elective Sadri-Riyasat with a Presidential nominee Governor.
Omar Abdullah cannot do so even if his NC were to get absolute majority in the upcoming Legislative Assembly elections given the fact that on July 23, 1975 Sheikh Abdullah-led Government of J&K gave concurrence to the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Second Amendment Order, 1975 whereby the J&K State Legislative Assembly was/is debarred, among other things, from amending the Constitution of J&K in respect of “appointment, powers, functions, duties, emoluments, allowances, privileges or immunities of the Governor.” Simply put, this Sheikh Abdullah-imposed bar meant/means that J&K Legislature cannot reverse the 1965-Amendment to J&K Constitution either to make the position of Governor elective as the Sadri-Riyasat used to be, or to re-designate Governor as Sadri-Riyasat. Engineer Rashid hoodwinks the State Subjects that their State became a republic on November 17, 2019; and that they have a flag of their own. The truth is that the so-called State flag is National Conference party flag rather that the flag of the whole lot of State Subjects; and that the J&K State is not a republic but a dependency of India. Congress is the root cause of conflict in Kashmir. According Mir Qasim, its founder-President in Kashmir, it was the channel through which all the political dirt of India was shifted to Kashmir (p.273 Dastani-Hayat). Peoples’ Conference is a trusted ally of BJP. BJP seeks abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India. Article 35A is a saving clause. It saves the State Subject (Permanent Residency) laws of the State and thereby saves the State Subjects from getting trampled by settlers. If Article 35A is abrogated, Permanent Residency laws would have to go as they would become vulnerable to be challenged in the Supreme Court of India on the same grounds put forth by BJP nowadays to challenge Article 35A. BJP’s stance on Articles 35A and 370 has at least sensitized Kashmiris to these special provisions. Local politicians only dupe Kashmiris.
As of now, in addition to killings, arrests, bannings, the issues of abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 are the most significant issues the State Subjects are facing. “Separatists” camp’s election boycott fixation is no help in safeguarding Article 35A. I suspect that some elements among them actually want to see this Article abrogated because that would make Kashmiris desperate; and it would be easy matter to manipulate a desperate people to strengthen faction running enterprise euphemistically called freedom movement. Article 35A could be safeguarded in a civilized manner by an independent minded, people friendly, civilian government and legislature that would use State resources for the purpose. Such a government could also explore the potential of Article 370. So what J&K needs is, not boycott, but full scale election participation. However, with “mainstream” only concerned about capturing State power and resources, and running patronage machines; and “separatists” boycotting elections and only worrying about running their personalized factions, bringing a people friendly government into existence would be an impossible task unless the whole politics of J&K were first overhauled; and a final goodbye said to personalism, political feudal lordism, clientelism, patronage, faction running, agitation, and election boycott. Previously the State Subjects did not have the sword of abrogation of Article 35A dangling over their heads. Now they have. Imagine what will happen if the BJP and its trusted allies manage to win majority of seats in the upcoming provincial Assembly elections!

(The author is a freelancer. Views are his own ashqhussainbhat@gmail.com)

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