Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ELECTION BATTLE BEGINS IN KASHMIR

Omar De-Links Polls From Kashmir Dispute

In central Kashmir district Budgam Omer Abdullah, the pro-India National Conference president kicked off his election compaign for the State Assembly by delinking  Kashmir dispute with the poll process and described polls for the State assembly as voting for construction of bridges, roads, schools and hospitals. In North Kashmir the pro-freedom leadership asked people not to trust pro-India poarties which  try to speak in Azadi (freedom) language.

Here are the reports 

Naseer A Ganai 

Budgam, Nov 22: In its first election gathering after the massive pro-freedom rallies of July and August and subsequent clampdown of the state Government, the National Conference today kicked off its election campaign by trying to de-link the election process from the resolution of Kashmir dispute.
“The elections will not have any effect on Kashmir issue. And whether people participate in elections or not, it will not affect resolution of Kashmir issue,” the National Conference president Omar Abdullah said at DIC Budgam ground.
Not once, but thrice Omar repeated the statement that elections were not for resolution of Kashmir dispute and insisted that these two things should not be linked.
Former National Conference MLA from Budgam, Aga Ruhullah Budgami, had distributed special passes among the workers at the rally and strict instructions were given to the security personnel not to allow anyone without the pass.
The participants were conscious about the changing political situation and were reluctant to talk freely. “I am with National Conference since 1977,” said a worker from Handjan village of Budgam, not willing to disclose his name to this reporter. He said he had participated in the pro-freedom protests as well, during which Hilal Ahmad Baig of his village was killed in police firing. “But those protests were different and this convention is different,” he said.   
It seems Omar too had his ears to the ground. He didn’t touch Kashmir dispute in his address, instead launched scathing attack on the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress for ‘failing’ to provide basic amenities to the people. The PDP, however, was the foremost target of his tirade.
The PDP, he said, came up with the slogan of healing touch and two government jobs to each family but gave nothing to people. “They take credit of not implementing the POTA but they booked people under the PSA,” he said. He said Farooq Abdullah Government initiated talks at the Nehru Guest House but the PDP unnecessarily takes credit of everything. He said electricity was not being provided to people but they were being charged heavily. “This government has done nothing for people and everyone wants to get rid of it,” he said. This, he said, could be achieved when the NC flag will unfurl at the secretariat.
He said state of Jammu and Kashmir has problems of dilapidated roads, unemployment, water scarcity, power curtailment, over-crowded hospitals and under-staffed schools. “If someone will tell us don’t participate in elections and assure us that he will solve problems of roads, hospitals, schools, unemployment, atrocities of army and other related issues, then we won’t participate in elections,” Omar said. He insisted that the Kashmir dispute and the daily problems of Kashmiris were two different issues and they should not be clubbed together.
However he acknowledged that forthcoming elections wouldn’t be easy and asked workers to be ready for the challenge. “First, you have to face those who don’t want the elections. Second challenge is from those parties which would participate and confront you. You have to defeat them,” he said.
He said those who will boycott the elections and continue to argue their case with speeches, campaigns and arguments then the NC has no problem. But, Omar said, guns, land mines, grenades should not be used and if this happens then it would be really wrong. 
The NC president however had assurance for unemployed youth. He announced unemployment allowance and said if elected his government would provide an allowance to the unemployed.  
But unlike Omar, earlier speakers including Aga Ruhullah and the NC provincial president, Mehboob Beg, talked at length about the land transfer issue and described all those killed during land agitation as martyrs. “Kashmiris were on roads, they were angry because they were Kashmiris and it was their land which was transferred,” Aga Ruhullah said. “We can’t bring them back but I assure you if elected land will not be given to anyone,” he said. 
Mehboob Beg said after six months the PDP has now realized that their ministers were responsible for the land transfer. He saluted the people who “sabotaged PDP-Congress” scheme. He said the PDP was creator of the land transfer issue but it was trying hard to portray herself as victim. “They even accuse us of Indus Water Treaty agreement and forget Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and other senior NC leaders were in jail when the agreement was signed,” he said, adding the National Conference would demand compensation from India and Pakistan for the treaty. Senior NC leader Abdul Rahim Rather accused the previous coalition government of financial mismanagement. He said the financial mismanagement during past six years has new heights despite financial assistance from the central government.

DON'T VOTE
Pro-Indians Will Speak Azadi For Votes: Malik

But the pro-freedom leadership was not silent. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik on Wednesday started the poll boycott campaign from North Kashmir township of Hajin.

He called  for complete boycott of the Assembly polls and asked people to remain vigilant against the pro-India parties saying ‘they would be speaking the language of pro-freedom groups while seeking votes.’
  He was addressing a gathering at Hajin Chowk in Bandipore district where polls are scheduled in first phase on November 17.
“Pro-India groups will be making frequent rounds of your localities while seeking votes from you. They too will be speaking the language of Azadi but you ought to be vigilant,” Malik, atop a vehicle, told the gathering.
He urged people to start valley-wide non-violent campaign against elections and carry forward the recent pro-freedom uprising. “We don’t need to protest, hold processions or pelt-stones on any one. We just have to sit at home and avoid going to election rallies or polling booths,” he said.
He said the recent mass uprising for freedom has weakened India’s cause in Kashmir and there was pressure on New Delhi from various international quarters for its denial of right to self-determination to Kashmiris. “By holding elections, India wants to show the world community that people here have chosen a democratic government. But I urge you not to take part in the so-called elections,” he said.
Reminding people that 51 persons were killed in the Valley ‘by police and Indian troopers’ during the recent agitation, he said, casting a vote was tantamount to betrayal with the blood of martyrs.
Malik was flanked by president of Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadith, Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah.
“Kashmirs have been suffering for the past 60 years because of the mistakes committed by them from time to time. But don’t repeat any mistake by casting votes,” Shah urged the people.
He said India would make use of the polls and project it as democracy. “But we urge you to be cautious and shun taking part in the election process.”
Earlier Malik and Shah marched though various areas of Hajin amid pro-freedom, anti-India and poll-boycott slogans. Men, women and children followed their vehicle as they made repeated calls for election boycott
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