Loksabha elections have been scheduled and hectic activities like candidature fixing, campaigns, etc are on in J&K also. While the election commission and the administration are busy preparing for the security aspects of elections, the political parties are busy wooing voters, elaborating the virtues of their candidates and their past work.
In the midst of all this, the stark reality of flawed elections of the past scares the Kashmiri people. They are haunted by the violence, coercion and rigging they have witnessed in Assembly elections and in Parliament elections in the past 54 years. The fact that polling ratios of all elections held in J&K has been taken in far too many senses, add to their worries.
While voting in elections and thus taking part in the "democratic" process of a nation like India holds priority, it is as much a democratic right of citizens to abstain from elections and register their protest against what they believe as a system, which does not provide them security to their lives and property.
It was in this context that the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and the Civil Society Initiatives (Delhi) held Election Observation Programme in J&K during the last Assembly Elections (2002). The report, titled …‘Independent Election Observers Report´ attracted much attention, appreciation and criticism. The collective process, however also became an opportunity to expose many leading personalities from India to the day-to-day realities of conflict in J&K.
It is with the same objectives that we approach you with an invitation to join us for another round of election observation, this time for the Lok Sabha Elections (2004) to be held in J&K, in 4 phases for the 6 parliamentary seats. As earlier, the different teams of the Coalition consisting of people from Jammu and Kashmir as well as outsiders, will be monitoring elections in different constituencies, on different days and will collectively bring out a report on the election process.
While the main agenda of the team will be to look at the aspects of …‘free and fair elections´, we strongly feel that the process will also allow us to assess and analyse the present phase of …‘peace negotiations´ (between BJP lead NDA Government and a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference) and …‘the healing touch´ (as claimed by the PDP led Government in the state).
It is not a funded project and hence all friends who are willing to join in any one phase or more, as part of the team, will have to bear their respective travel costs to J&K. But we will be happy to support the local accommodation and local transport from our side. Kindly understand our financial restraints and do join us in this process.
We look forward to receiving your confirmation. Kindly find enclosed the election schedule in detail.
Ladkah, (No team will be able to go)
Thanking you in anticipation.
President, J&K CCS
G N Saibaba
General Secretary, AIPRF
Editorial Consultant, EPW