Anti-India Rhetorics In J&K Poll Campaign

19 April 2008

Srinagar: Elections in Jammu and Kashmir have often been seen as a matter of choosing between separatists and pro-India parties. But ironically, in the run up to the assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year, its the mainstream parties that are using separatist slogans in their campaigns. At a rally in Budgam, National Conference leaders blamed New Delhi for every problem in Kashmir. In fact, they even extended an olive branch to militants. 'God willing, and if you people support us, National Conference will form the next government. We will again announce a ceasefire with militants and initiate dialogue with them. There will be no conditions for talks,' said Omar Abdullah, president, National Congress. Even the Peoples Democratic Party, an ally of the Congress-led government in the state, is talking of self-rule and demilitarisation. They also want to share a currency and legislative council with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. 'Is this a sin, if PDP is demanding that there should be representatives for the Upper House from other side of Kashmir also? And what's bad, if PDP is demanding Pakistani and Indian currency here and other part of Jammu and Kashmir?' asks PDP president Mehbooba Mufti. So far, most separatist groups here have not mentioned anything about boycotting the polls. And now, the mainstream parties have actually given them a handle to justify their cause. 'The way current political landscape has been set up now, the situation has become very difficult. If you boycott, it's a boycott against Indian state and if you vote, it's a vote in favour of secession. Either way it represents the sentiment somehow,' says Sajad Lone, Chairman, People's Party. In their ambition to conquer the separatist constituency in Kashmir, the pro-India parties have ended up adopting soft separatism. And all indicators suggest that 2008 assembly elections will be contested mainly on anti-India rhetoric.