Jammu and Kashmir governor, Satya Pal Malik, on the boycott of local body elections by the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, is reported to have told them that the current system in the state “is not an elected government”, and this is not the “right time” for parties to “take a position on Article 35A or Article 370”, Indian Express reported.
Ever since he took charge, Malik has been consulting political leaders to “ease (their) concern and address the issue,” Express reported.
A senior government official said, “Local body and panchayat elections in the state are overdue and if they are further postponed, it will not be possible to hold the elections before April next year, as elections cannot take place between December and March given weather conditions in the Valley. By April next year, security forces will be busy preparing for the General Election.”
If the elections will not be held, the official concluded, “the state will have to wait another year. As far as we are concerned, ensuring better turnout, involvement of political representative and security remains the biggest challenge.”
Commenting on the boycott, an official of the Home Ministry said, “Panchayat elections are not held on party lines. Moreover, Governor Satyapal Malik is holding consultations with the political parties to ease their concerns.”
The last panchayat elections had been conducted in 2011, while the municipal election polls had taken place in 2005.
An official stated that the key concern was security, particularly in South Kashmir. However, a decision needed to be taken to give precedence to “grassroots democracy” in the state.
“This is the first step to normalise the situation,” the official said.
A threat assessment is currently underway, the official revealed for providing security for the election candidates, in collaboration with the state government and Jammu and Kashmir police.
Earlier, National Conference President and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, at a commemoratory function on Sheikh Abdullah’s death anniversary said that his party would boycott Lok Sabha and assembly elections if the government of India would not end its ambiguous stand on Article 35-A.
“We will not only boycott Panchayat elections but also Lok Sabha & Assembly elections if the Centre doesn’t clear its stand on Article 35A and Article 370,” said Abdullah.
The party spokesman, Ruhullah Mehdi, tweeted on Wednesday that the party would not participate in the municipal and panchayat elections until the government of India would ‘clear’ its position regarding 35-A.
Omar Abdullah retweeted it with the comment: “It is now for the central government to clarify where it stands with regard to Art 35-A. It’s not enough to use Panchayat & Municipal elections simply to delay proceedings in court.”
Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik during a crucial meeting at Hyderpora urged people to boycott the upcoming municipal elections with the spirit of denying recognition to National Conference, PDP and other mainstream political parties who, they said, are collaborating with Government of India just to “strengthen the roots of occupation” in Jammu and Kashmir.
JRL commended people on their steadfastness and unity in strongly opposing the tinkering with hereditary state subject law being challenged in the Indian Supreme Court by anti Kashmir agencies and organisations. They said people of J&K have always stood up and resisted every move of occupation and subjugation thrust upon them.
The comments come at a time when the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearing of petitions against Article 35-A in the Constitution to January next year.
This came after Jammu and Kashmir government approached the SC seeking adjournment of the hearing.
In a letter to the Registrar of the Supreme Court and circulated, M Shoeb Alam, the standing counsel for the state in the apex court, sought adjournment of hearing on five petitions scheduled for Friday, by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
According to Intelligence reports, agencies had warned about the revolt in the police ranks in a written communication to the state government.
People across the political and regional divide have come together to protest against attempts to revoke Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.
Recently, National Security Advisor of India Ajit Doval at a book launch on Sardar Vallabhai Patel on Tuesday said that having a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir was ‘probably an aberration’ and stressed on the fact that sovereignty can never be compromised.