Democracy vs. Independence?

The leader of the pro-India party the National Conference, Dr Farooq, told journalisits of The Greater Kashmir that he was happy that Pakistan, the United Jihad Council and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen had not interfered. He highlighted the fact that the NC stood for good governance and the separatists for indepence – two facts that are not incompatible.

I would agree with Dr Farooq: good governance and independece are not two opposite poles. Democracy, human rights and cease-fire are essential for the empowerment and improvement of the quality of life of the Kashmiri people.

But, there seem to be more than approval of elections that keep the separatist groups quiet this time. The leaders of the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Sajad Ghani Lone and Bilal Ghani Lone, have been kept under house arrest the last week. For the Indian Government it has been a crucial policy to keep the anti-election voices silent in order to produce a high turnout.

Clearly this brings us back to the discussion about democracy that is as old as democracy itself – what to do with undemocratic forces in a democratic system? And as the pro-independence groups in Kashmir (well, the most of them at least) are not against democracy per se, but only objects to the Indian-administered democracy (with or without airquotes), it becomes even more confusing.

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