Sunday, October 26, 2008

Other side

Sajjad to launch poll boycott campaign
Srinagar, Oct 25: The Peoples Conference chairman, Sajjad Gani Lone on Saturday said his party would take out long marches across the Valley urging the people to boycott the polls. The party would launch a village-to-village anti-election campaign from November 12. 
Addressing a press conference, Lone said, “Elections are a futile and an irrelevant exercise as these offer no solution to the Kashmir conflict. Till the polls are over, all the village-level units of the party will be turned into election-boycott units and directed to launch a vigorous anti-poll campaign in their respective areas.”
The campaign, he said, would create awareness among the people on how important it was to boycott the elections. “We will be forming a committee to co-ordinate among all the units of the party to ensure its success,” Lone said. 
Pertinently, Lone has, time and again, been accused of contesting elections by proxy.
Without naming anybody, Lone said that all separatist leaders were welcome to join his poll-boycott marches. “I have nothing to do with elections. This boycott call is an answer to those who would often ask me that I was fighting the elections. It is an answer to those who would issue venomous statements against me. They will see how successful this boycott campaign will be,” Lone said, dispelling the confusion about his contesting the polls. He had a word of advice for fellow pro-freedom leaders. “I request them that they should not humiliate the fellow separatists and label them this or that,” he said. 
Justifying his poll boycott campaign, Lone said elections and boycott were the “twin dimensions” of the democratic concept. “Let the Indian state accept my humble democratic challenge and allow free espousal of the twin dimensions of democracy instead of accepting only one and using brutal force against the other,” he said, adding it was unfortunate that those who call for boycotting the elections were being jailed. 
He said that resorting to such “tactics” only endorsed the selective acceptance of democracy by the Indian state. “The way we look at it, it seems that India is accepting the defeat before the contest. On the one hand, it says that Kashmir is a battle for democracy, but on the other, it puts its military might after the unarmed and peaceful advocates of boycott,” Lone said, asserting that a “coercion process” had already started in several villages to scuttle the boycott campaign.  
Lashing at the National Conference president over his reported statement that elections were an administrative exercise, Lone said, “Omar Abdullah is saying that elections are an administrative matter. But when the Indian prime minister goes abroad, he claims that India has the elected representatives in Jammu and Kashmir. This way he tries to lend credence to a farce called elections.”
Lone asserted that the tactics like arresting workers, leaders and activists won’t deter them from pursuing the boycott campaign. “Let me inform India that we are not afraid of arrests. India will be tired of arresting us, but it will strengthen the resolve of people to fight for their rights,” he said.
Lone said that achievability, dialogue, non-violence and realism were the only means to resolve the Kashmir dispute. “If India really respects these institutions, then it should allow us to go for the boycott,” Lone said. 
The PC chief said that India had eroded the credibility of the institution of dialogue. “But I still believe that dialogue is a sacred institution and bigger than any individual or party,” Lone said, adding it was unfortunate that the government of India didn’t acknowledge several rounds of talks that separatists had with it. “The only acknowledgement to my dialogue with India and to my Achievable Nationhood document is that my family and children have been denied the visa,” Lone said.  
Lone said that the PC would be supporting all programmes of the Coordination Committee. “Our poll boycott campaign is a concurrent programme and in no way it contradicts other programmes. We are doing it with full sincerity and honesty,” he said. “The mass contact programme will start with a long march on foot from Langate to Kupwara on November 12, followed by another long march from Kyunus to Bandipore on November 13, Watergam to Varmul on November 14, Shanghas to Islamabad on November 19 and Noorabad to Kulgam on November 20,” he said, adding the programmes for other areas would be announced separately.

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