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Danish Mallick asked: Is the Indian strategy of creating democracy deficit in J&K state a viable option to retain territorial integrity?

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  • Abdul Hameed Khan replies: India’s image as the biggest democracy in the world is robust and well known. India has vigorously promoted democratic practices all along, without exception. Every constituent of its government structure as well as all the established political parties have shown profound respect to it. This goes to establish India’s democratic approach towards all of its states and territories.

    The territorial integrity of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) with India was established with the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the then ruler of the princely state of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, in October 1947. The only condition therein was the special arrangement which restricted Indian dominion to make laws for the State pertaining to certain matters. The same was ensured by India with the grant of a special status to J&K by incorporating Article 370 in the Indian Constitution, thereby completing the process of J&K’s integration with India.

    Over a period of time, free and fair elections have been successfully conducted in J&K wherein the voter participation has been consistently on the rise. The voter turnout for the 2014 state assembly elections was over 65 per cent, which was at par with the national average of 66.04 per cent for the 2014 general elections. The panchayat or the village-level elections conducted in J&K in 2011, despite threats and boycott calls from separatists and armed terrorists, saw a record turnout of about 80 per cent. These figures by themselves speak of the enthusiasm among the people towards the democratic process in the state.

    As far as the UN Security Council Resolution 47 is concerned, which called for a plebiscite to be held in J&K, the Indian position is widely known wherein the demilitarisation of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) was never carried out by Pakistan, leading to not meeting the very first condition for the conduct of plebiscite. Over a period of time, the situation in PoK has completely altered with change in its demography as well as the territorial boundaries. With Pakistan illegally ceding Shaksgam Valley to China, and Aksai Chin remaining under the Chinese occupation, the plebiscite issue is irrelevant now.

    The inherent strength of India’s secularism and democracy is likely to mitigate the problems in J&K and address the grievances, in due course of time. Apparently that’s what the Indian state stands for to ensure integrity of all its citizens and territories. Democratic deficit, if any, is highly pronounced on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC), though.

    Posted on February 12, 2016