OPINION: India-Pakistan and the significance of Kashmir's elections

The Jammu and Kashmir State of India had legislative assembly election results declared last month. The separatists had given a boycott call, but not many listened to them. Not a single political outfit offered a word of sympathy to their positions. People voted for the pro-Indian parties overwhelmingly.

In the 87 member legislature, the National Conference Party has emerged largest with 28 seats. This is the party of the late secular pioneer, anti-British freedom fighter Sheikh Abdullah, who opposed occupation of part of Kashmir by Pakistan till his death. His son, Dr. Farukh Abdullah, is likely to be elected the next chief minister with the help of 17 members elected from the Congress Party of India, which leads the federal government of India.

Ten other seats have gone to smaller parties of which Communist Party of India (Marxist) also has one seat. The rightist BJP has bagged another 10 seats, under their recent anti -government crusade to deny land to a temple trust, an issue favored by the outgoing Congress state government. (Plus the BJP has been war-mongering, urging the Indian government to attack Pakistan in retaliation of the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The BJP’s attempt to use the Mumbai attacks for political gain seems to have failed.)

The rest of the 22 seats have been won by another secular party People's Democratic Party whose leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was a federal minister in India a few years back.

About 55 percent of voters went to the polls ignoring boycott call. One top separatist said the elections declared the message to the people. Elections to the J& K assembly have been regularly held every five years. It has never been under army rule as is the case for Pakistani-occupied Kashmir for most part of its history.

British imperialists divided the country in 1947 under their own cooked up theory of two nations, one Hindu and one Muslim. The majority of the people of India – undivided -- never agreed to such a theory. Under foreign rule the leaders of both sides were forced to accept this partition under the threat of devastating Hindu-Muslim massacres, stage managed by foreign rulers. Serious riots were purposefully unleashed, threatening tens of millions of lives. Historians have testified to the fact, including Maulana Abulklam Azad, the well known secular Muslim leader who was the president of the Congress Party of India for more than ten years of the freedom struggle of India.

After partition the British government enjoyed all sorts of rights in Pakistan under military rule. The people of Pakistan have no ill feeling about India, where 140 million of Muslims live in a secular country, get elected to assemblies, and federal legislatures and have occupied high posts including the president of India. The level of education for Muslim women and their civil rights in India far surpasses that attained by any other Muslim country in the world, although Indians are not happy with that level themselves. International forces who thrive in divide and rule, keep tossing the idea of a 'disputed Kashmir.”

Left to India and Pakistan the Kashmir problem would settle itself to the satisfaction of its people. It is outside interference that needs be eliminated. Times have changed favorably for a peaceful coexistence. People of South Asia have posted high hopes on events that are likely to follow the change in U.S. administration, as also have the peace-loving people all over the world.

R.K. Sharma is a doctor and peace activist from India.