By K.N. Pandita
Massive turn out of Sarpanchs and Panchs throughout the State for casting vote to elect four MLCs from the quota of seats for Panchayats is a significant event in the contemporary history of the State. Its significance lies in bold and decisive move by the representatives of the people to defy the diktat of the militant organization, especially the chief of the Jihad Council sitting in Muzaffarabad, PoK.
This was for the first time after 1974 that elections were held for four vacancies in the Upper House from Panchayat quota. The elections couldn’t be held in the absence of Panchayats. After 1974, elections to few Panchayats were held in 2001 but they too were dissolved prematurely. Complete elections to the Panchayats were held in June-July 2011.
Overall voting in the State has been above 97 per cent while in Srinagar district it has been 100 per cent. In militancy ridden district of Baramulla, voting has been plus eighty percent.
Why do the militant organizations and their leadership, in and outside the state, so vehemently oppose panchayat elections and why do they want to unleash violence against the elected panchs? It is time that the people in the state try to find answer to these questions.
First, holding of panchayat elections after a long gap of over forty years is a tribute to the coalition government headed by Omar Abdullah. We may help our readers recollect that when the government finally decided to order holding of panchayat elections, critics and adversaries spread many false rumours to discredit government’s venture. Some said that the ruling coalition is eager to seek indirect confidence vote of the people. Some said that the government would manipulate the elections by bribing the voters and returning their party men in the voting. Yet there were still many others who said that the government was doing a fake service and in reality wanted to grab a few thousand crore rupees from central government’s allocation to which it would be entitled after conducting panchayat elations.
Unfortunately, during past few decades, our political leadership has abandoned the concept of democratic dispensation and its futuristic vision in a developing country like India. They forgot national perspective and confined themselves to self-aggrandizement. This dealt a serious blow to the evolution of political maturity of the state and its economic development.
In contrast to this, the government and specially the present coalition government took the initiative of practically devolving power to the people through recognized and standard mode of fair and impartial elections to panchayats. Today, more than a year after the elections were held, nobody has questioned the fairness of the elections. Thus the canard of manipulative elections spread by the adversaries has been disproved.
Likewise, the false propaganda that the ruling parties were using it as a plank to project their party candidates, too, has been nailed once for all. That elected panchs might have party affiliations is nothing unexpected or unethical. We are having a democratic political arrangement in our country. Every citizen is expected to be politically well-informed and clear in what is good and what is bad for him or her and the nation. It is highly appreciable that our elected panchs are politically well informed because then alone can they contribute to balanced development of the State.
It is true that panchayat elections have also to be considered as indirect vote of confidence for the government, something that is gall to the militants and their organizations. The people have not responded to the call of any one political party but to their deep desire of strengthening democratic arrangement in the State. What does panchayati raj mean at the end of the day? It means empowering people; it means pulling political and decision making power out of the closed confines of political and bureaucratic cells and leaving it open to the people for a considered decision. Why should not people welcome it? And why should they listen to the militants and their organizations asking them to boycott?
The massive turnout of voters is an event of great disappointment to the militants in Kashmir. This is the response of the general public to militants’ threats issued to the panchs and sarpanchs during last couple of months and demanding their resignation. Yes, they have managed gunning down of three of the panchs in Baramulla district; they have also managed to scare some of the more vulnerable panchs or sarpanchs. We have to understand that there could be personal rivalry and hence the unleashing of violence. Such a situation has nothing to do with overall response of the people to panchayati elections. At the same time, the militant organizations, especially the Jihad Council, HuM and their cohorts in Kashmir, should know that the elected panchs and sarpanchs have their respective constituencies that are determined to provide them security and support in face of any threat extended to them. They enjoy the trust of their voters. In other words, the militants should understand that their cadres of supporters have dried up and they have lost the battle. Unleashing of violence against the elected panchs has boomeranged on them.
More interestingly, the female panchs and sarpanchs have demonstrated extraordinary courage and confidence by defying the diktat of the militants. They came out in full numbers to exercise their right to vote for an MLC candidate. This is how democracy works and can be strengthened. The militants cannot succeed against the masses of the people determined to promote democratic dispensation. Kashmiri youth have fully realized how they have been exploited for two deadest in the past. The vistas of development thrown open to them have shown them the right path to progress and prosperity.
Soon the four elected members to the upper house from panchayat constituency will take their seats and begin the task of leading the state onwards along the path of development. Their voice has power when raised in the sessions of the legislature. They are among the guardians of public interest, foremost of which are peace and tranquillity in the State. The militants must accept their defeat and refuse to be exploited by their external handlers. The State of Jammu and Kashmir has a bright future as integral part of Indian Union and the there is no possibility whatsoever of turning the clock backwards.