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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
Kashmir's flawed elections
Soldier at polling booth
Polling in Kashmir has proved problematic

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has had a chequered history of elections reflecting the troubled politics of the state since its accession to India in 1947.

Kashmir polls
First round: 16 September
Second round: 24 September
Third round: 1 October
Fourth round : 8 October
Counting begins: 10 October
The first elections were held to the state's constituent-cum-legislative assembly in 1951.

It was a time when the influence of Sheikh Abdullah - the key figure in Kashmiri politics - was at its height and nobody from the opposition stood so ruling party candidates were returned unchallenged.

Sheikh Abdullah eventually fell out of favour with Delhi and was dismissed and jailed in 1953. But subsequent elections - in 1957, 1962 and 1967 - were widely regarded as being little better.

A prominent lawyer, Ghulam Nabi Hagroo, says that the elected MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) came to be known as "made by Khaliq."

This was a reference to a certain returning officer, Abdul Khaliq Malik, who was alleged to have found all sorts of ways to reject the nominations of any opposition candidates.

Large turn-out

Sheikh Abdullah returned to the mainstream of Indian politics after an accord with the then Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in the mid-1970s.

I remember there was massive rigging in the 1987 elections. It shook ordinary people's faith in the... democratic process

Congress Party leader Khem Lata Wukhloo
His National Conference party participated in the polls of 1977, which saw the largest turn-out of voters so far.

Although the state was then under direct Indian rule, the government in Delhi made it clear to everyone who mattered that it wanted a fair poll.

Sheikh Abdullah won a landslide victory, and his son and successor, Farooq Abdullah, won a huge majority in the elections of 1983.

But Farooq Abdullah fell out with India's ruling Congress party and the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, who had him dismissed the very next year.

Turning point

But when Farooq Abdullah later agreed to an alliance with Congress, it turned many of supporters against him. It is widely believed that the elections of 1987 were rigged in favour of Mr Abdullah's party.

Farooq Abdullah
Farooq Abdullah: Said to have benefited from poll rigging
A leader of the Congress Party at the time, Khem Lata Wukhloo, recalls: "I remember that there was a massive rigging in 1987 elections. The losing candidates were declared winners. It shook the ordinary people's faith in the elections and the democratic process."

Many believe that these elections were a turning point in the history of Kashmir.

Many parties - like the Jamaat-e-Islami, the People's Conference and the Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen which were on the losing side - are now part of the main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, campaigning for self-determination of the Kashmiri people.

More importantly, key figures in militant groups fighting against Indian rule - took part in the 1987 polls.

The APHC Chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat says the outcome seriously disillusioned many Kashmiris.

"Kashmiri youths participated in the 1987 elections with great enthusiasm and seriousness and after due thought. But the poll results fired them with anger. They decided to fight violence with violence."


Ever since the outbreak of the insurgency in 1989, militant groups have boycotted the polls on the grounds that they can't be a substitute for a plebiscite.

The elections of 1996 were held amid widespread allegations by ordinary people that the Indian troops coerced them into voting.

And the turnout was not more than 10% cent anywhere in the Kashmir Valley.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has promised that these latest elections n the state will be free and fair.

But the separatists have once again refused to participate, saying that they are not interested in governance till the basic issue of Kashmir has been resolved.

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See also:

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