B.K. Nehru: 1997
"From 1953 to 1975, Chief Ministers of that State [of J&K] had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimised by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi's nominee was elected by huge majorities." B.K. Nehru, who was Governor of Kashmir from 1981 to 1984, in his memoirs published in 1997.
- Nice Guys Finish Second; pp. 614-5.
There have been widespread charges of election-rigging in Kashmir which have plagued all the elections from 1951 till date. Though it is true that election-rigging is not specific to the State of J&K and has taken place in elections elsewhere in India, it becomes necessary to analyze elections in Kashmir, given the fact that the Indian State continues to argue that such elections are a substitute for the promised plebiscite.
It is noteworthy that Mr. B.K. Nehru, former Governor of J&K has acknowledged publicly that elections in Kashmir have indeed been rigged in the past.
In 1978, Prem Nath Bazaz, a prominent Hindu Kashmiri journalist and activist
summarized the political
process in Jammu and Kashmir(J&K) as follows: "After independence, rulers
of J&K State were not the freely chosen representatives of the people as
they should have been but were the nominees and the proteges of the Central
Congress Government. Whether they were the leaders of the National Conference as
in the early years (1947-53) and during 1975-77, or belonged to the Congress as
in the intervening period, their source of power was New Delhi...". Bazaz continued,
- "The fact remained that the final
decision about selection of candidates, extent of rigging and supply of funds
rested with the central Congress leadership. Not even once the elections
were fair and free and a candidate holding independent views had slim chance
to be elected. It was taken for granted that so long as the ruling party was
in the good books of the Central Government, it was sure by hook or by crook
to win the majority at the polls; most of its candidates were declared elected
The history of elections held in Jammu & Kashmir right from
October 1951 to 1999 is full of recorded evidence that points out large scale
state supported rigging, coercion and out-right brutality in the early years
and use of gun point to drag the helpless Kashmiris out of their homes to cast vote, in the later years.
The Central Congress Government controlled the ruling parties in the State
(National Conference from 1953-1965 and the Congress Party from 1965-1975), with its
handpicked nominees running the government.
The top opposition stalwarts like Maulvi Mohammad Yusuf Shah and Ghulam
Abbas had fled to the other side of the border in 1947. The Plebiscite Front had
boycotted the path of elections and was demanding self-determination.
This enabled the ruling National Conference to perpetuate its monopoly
over state power.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was installed by India as the Prime Minister of the State in
March 1948 to rule the state along with Council of Ministers. [In Kashmir,
Chief Minister was called Prime Minister until 1965].
In October 1949, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 of the
Constitution, ensuring a degree of autonomy and special status for
Jammu and Kashmir. India held the first election in Kashmir in October 1951
to elect the Constituent Assembly. It is important to note that the UN made it
clear that this election is not a substitute for a plebiscite.
The Indian government was then pressing Sheikh Abdullah
to ensure that the Kashmir legislative assembly ratified accession of Kashmir to
India. The 1948 Indian White Paper on J&K states that Maharaja Sir Hari Singh,
the Ruler of J&K had signed an Instrument of Accession in October 1947, acceding
his State to India and the accession was accepted by India conditional on
a plebiscite . Further,
between 1947-1951, Nehru repeated the assurance of holding a
plebiscite to decide the final accession of J&K, but in 1952 he suddenly
backed out citing
the Pak-US alliance. Critics have labeled this as flimsy excuse.
Meanwhile, while Abdullah had spoken publicly in favour of endorsing the Accession to India
since 1947, he began to drift towards autonomy/independence of J&K and procrastinated in
confirming the Instrument of Accession.
When the new assembly failed to ratify the accession document, the Indian Central
Govt arrested Abdullah in 1953 and appointed his chief deputy, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed,
as prime minister of J&K. Under Bakshi's administration, the assembly ratified
the Instrument of Accession in 1954.
In the Parliamentary elections held in 1989, voter turnout was very thin in Kashmir Valley , partly due to threats by militants. President's rule was imposed in J&K from 1990-1996 following the insurgency.
Almost a decade after the last elections in Kashmir, the Indian government held
much-publicized elections in 1996. In the Parliamentary elections held in May, many people complained that they were
caught between militant groups who threatened to abuse people who participated in the
elections and the army and the so-called renegades threatening violations against
those who did not. The people were literally dragged out physically from their homes
at gunpoint, dumped into army trucks and brought to polling
Pakistan's Record in Elections in J&K
During the 1996 elections in Indian controlled Kashmir, Pakistan supported militants, besides other militants, have threatened the voters and candidates against participating in the elections. There have been similar threats by militants in the Parliamentary elections in 1998 and 1999.
Though Azad Kashmir has its own Government with only defence and foreign affairs controlled by Pakistan, there have been charges of manipulation of elections and candidates by Pakistan in Azad Kashmir . Northern Areas are controlled by Pakistan and the people do not have basic democratic rights and have never participated in elections.