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Kashmir election boycott won’t help: Salman Khurshid

Faisul Yaseen

Srinagar, December 14, 2007:

Former Indian minister of state for External Affairs, Salman Khurshid Friday asked Kashmiri separatist groups and people here to participate in the state assembly elections scheduled next year.

Addressing a news conference in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, the veteran Congressman Khurshid said, “Until majority, in fact all people, don’t participate in elections, democracy won’t be complete. Such a democracy always has loopholes.”

Referring to the separatist leadership in the region, Khurshid said, “Those who stay away from elections won’t benefit, neither will the state nor the country.”

Author of ‘Beyond Terrorism: New Hope for Kashmir’, Khurshid said dialogue always has ups and downs and people should not give up if there are no instant results.

He was referring to the moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has grown disillusioned with the pace of dialogue between New Delhi and Kashmiri separatist leaders.

“Vietnam spent several years discussing only the shape of table (who to talk with),” Khurshid said.

“If people attempt dialogue and retract, it doesn’t mean peace process isn’t moving forward. Sometimes people make statements keeping their constituencies in mind,” he added.

Hinting at the rigged elections of 1987 following which insurgency broke out in the region, Khurshid, the grandson of Dr Zakir Hussain, the third President of India, said rigged polls were a thing of past.

“In the past we received complaints of booth capturing and rigged polling in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Last assembly polls in the two states saw no or little incidents of violence. People of Jammu and Kashmir can expect the same,” Khurshid said.

He also asked the separatist leaders willing to participate in the forthcoming assembly polls to send signals of their participation to New Delhi.

About why New Delhi had failed to implement Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise of zero-tolerance against human rights violations in the region, Khurshid said, “Anyone who knows Mr. Singh will say that the PM can be trusted. But this does not mean that everything he says will be delivered. Much of human rights violations in the region occur not because there is any intention for violations but because of the system.”

Khurshid, a law graduate from Oxford University and a lawyer has been the head of the Uttar Pradesh Pradesh Congress Committee.

He appeared for SIMI, a student group banned in India and frequently charged by Indian authorities with militant activities, as its defence lawyer appealing the 2002 ban.

In June 2006 the Supreme Court of India rejected the appeal noting “the appeal against the ban should be first argued before the tribunal established for the purpose”.

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