Intro: For free and fair election in Jammu and Kashmir, the security forces are fully geared to deal with any eventuality during the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.
The bugle for elections has been sounded in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The ruling National Conference had expressed reservations about the timing of the poll but now that a decision to go ahead has been taken, the party has also adopted a vibrant campaigning mode. One would like to believe that National Conference was opposing the polls due to a genuine concern for the flood affected people and not due to political reasons as is being widely perceived.
It is now becoming a trend of sorts for elections in J&K to be held under testing circumstances. Ahead of the elections held in 2008, the mistimed withdrawal of support for the Congress by its then coalition partner the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led to Governors rule in the state. At that stage also the election commission was called upon to take a very difficult decision. It showed tremendous courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds when it decided against postponing the elections. Free and fair elections with a record voter turnout were held and the democratically elected government thus installed has now completed its six year tenure successfully.
The decision for the election commission in the current instance also would not have been an easy one. There are multiple problems in holding elections in the state, the main being security, and the tenuous situation caused by the recent floods.
Security will be a big concern during elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The terror mongers located in Pakistan have been attempting, since long, to boost the terrorist strength and terrorist morale in the state for the specific purpose of scuttling the elections. They have not achieved the degree of success that they were looking for due to the relentless efforts and vigil of the Indian security forces along the line of control as well as in the hinterland. Yet there is need for caution, the available strength of terrorists in the state has the capacity to cause problems in the electoral process.
The separatist groups have already started making the mandatory calls for boycott of the elections. They will try to discredit the poll process at every stage. They are bound to launch an anti-security forces campaign. Rumours of rigging through the use of government machinery will be spread with impunity, also, minor clashes with will be blown out of proportion.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Siachen and Srinagar on Diwali day got an opportunity to meet with the army commanders in Jammu and Kashmir. Surely, he would have discussed the issue of poll security with them. Apparently, he went back quite convinced that the situation is under control and his confidence has permeated down to the election commission. Also, all political parties except NC are in favour of holding elections on time. These twin factors have played a major role in the decision of the election commission to go ahead with the polls.
The Army in Kashmir is geared up to keep this promise in letter and spirit. The security forces are fully poised to assist the election process. They have been gearing up for this great event for quite some time and are by now ready to face all the challenges that the conduct of free and fair elections can pose upon them. Terrorism is firmly under control and chances of holding a fairly violence free election are very high. The force has the capability of providing all possible assistance to the election commission for ensuring free, fair and unhindered polling in the State, especially in the remote areas. The army is also giving all possible support to the ongoing efforts to restore the adverse situation caused by the recent floods. The model code of conduct is likely to be relaxed in the state to enable smooth progress of flood relief and rehabilitation.
Other than this, a number of steps need to be taken to ensure that false propaganda is not allowed to gain footage now or ever. First, the media should ensure that the situation is presented in the right perspective. Second, a system should be evolved whereby the different security services can be easily distinguished, the best method would be to have different uniforms. This will put an end to the blame game that the separatists are bound to indulge in. Third, political leaders should restrain themselves from making sweeping statements that cannot be justified on ground. Notwithstanding the problems and the challenges, it can be said that the people and the administration will not let down the great democracy of our country and successful election with large voter turnout will be held in Jammu and Kashmir.
Jaibans Singh (The writer is Editor www.defenceinfo.com and author Jammu and Kashmir: The Tide Turns)