BJP’s Electoral Engineering: Ban on Regional Political Parties in IIOJK

by Saba Ghulam Nabi

In Indian Iillegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, banning legitimate political parties has become the ‘new norm.’ The Hindutva-driven government of Modi is banning political parties in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir one after another. The Indian government, in its fresh attempt to further suppress the voices and stance of Kashmiris, has imposed a ban on two factions of the Muslim Conference in IIOJK. “First, the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, led by Professor Abdul Ghani Butt, and second, the Muslim Conference, led by All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Ghulam Nabi Sumjhi, both have been declared unlawful.” Suppressing legitimate voices in IIOJK is part of the Indian government’s broader campaign to crush Kashmiris will to resist resultantly curbing ongoing struggle for the right to self-determination.

The Indian government banned Muslim Conference under the black law known as “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for a period of five years. UAPA, a draconian law or a toxic mask of the Indian government, used to silence the minorities, permits the government to designate groups as unlawful, detains suspects for 180 days without formal charges, and presumes guilt in certain cases.”

Using this draconian law as authority, the BJP government has already banned many other political organizations in IIOJK, such as the “All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Muslim League, Democratic Freedom Party, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and Dukhtaran-e-Millat.” These political parties in IIOJK have been playing a vital role for decades in the ongoing struggle to get right to self-determination. By imposing sanctions on fundamental freedom and choking every kind of dissent in the IIOJK, India is blocking all peaceful avenues of struggle for Kashmiris. It is a disgrace to democracy to ban political organizations based on fake and fabricated allegations.

Indian police and troops have so far arrested over hundreds of Kashmiri political leaders and activists, besides snatching properties and other assets linked to the party. The political leaders and activists in IIOJK are facing illegal detention in Indian jails; many are placed under house arrest. The International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, the Geneva Convention, and international law all determine the rights of detainees. Despite the signing of these agreements and conventions, the Indian government is depriving the illegally detained Kashmiri political leaders of their basic rights, including adequate food, medical treatment, a fair trial, and inhumane treatment in jails. The authorities are deliberately prolonging the illegal detention of the political leaders. Modi is using all these measures as part of his electoral strategy. The policies of the BJP violate fundamental human rights as well as international humanitarian law and norms of democracy.

BJP appears to learn her lesson from the result of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh, where people rejected the BJP’s radical Hindutva agenda. This was further evident in the Ladakh elections, where the ruling BJP could only secure two seats out of twenty six (26). The BJP’s humiliating defeat has spoken volumes about how “unpopular” the BJP is on the ground. Therefore, BJP is not leaving any stone unturned in IIOJK to engineer victory in the upcoming elections by any means. On the other side, the people of IIOJK do not spare any opportunity to express their hatred and dissent for India’s ruling elites, or ultimately, Indian oppression. To facilitate non-Kashmiris, and to increase its vote bank Modi’s government under a well-planned agenda, has intensified the ethno-demographic changes in IIOJK. To seize the rights of the Muslim Kashmiris over 800,000 domicile certificates for non-Kashmiris have been issued, and nearly 2.5 million new non-local voters have been registered in IIOJK. This shows that BJP is so insecure about support from genuine voters  of IIOJK, that it needs to import temporary voters to win seats. Here it would be pertinent to quote Dr. Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research who highlighted how BJP is manipulating the ground situation, “To win the election in IIOJK, they are bringing in 2.5 million non-local voters to vote for them. When you fail to buy them, or when you fail to win hearts and minds, the new formula is you import the voters”.

In this context, Modi’s various legislative actions, like introducing new laws and amending previous laws, such as the “Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment 2023 Bill), the Jammu and Kashmir Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment 2023 Bill), the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment 2023 Bill), and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment 2023 Bill),” were designed to gain specific voter demographics.

These attempts by the BJP government intend to obtain support and strengthen its political position in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The inclusion of the Valmiki community and other non-Muslim communities in the Scheduled Castes list represents a significant political shift for gaining electoral backing in IIOJK. However, India needs to realize that suppressing dissenting voices in IIOJK could not crush the Kashmiris’s actual struggle, nor will such harsh measures stop them from pursuing their just cause, for which they have been sacrificing for decades. The BJP will use every possible “fair or unfair” means to get a win in Kashmir and to validate their claim of normalcy. If the BJP tries to win the election by massive rigging, as India tried in 1987, the result may be as explosive as it was then. Because the whistle of the “pressure cooker” is already whistling and the “graveyard silence” in the length and breadth of IIOJK can turn into a thunderstorm.


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