How The 1987 Elections Shook The Faith Of The Kashmiri People In Indian Democracy

By Rayees Rasool:

Kashmir has always witnessed political drama during elections. The blame game of pro-establishment political parties against each other is not something different from other parts of the world. A fresh election entails beating the same old drums – revocation of AFSPA, PSA etc. Elections in Kashmir derive the gradual attention of the national media and various political parties.

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Picture Credits

The only ‘election’ that stormed Kashmiris out of their houses to get their nails painted blue, was the epoch of Muslim United Front (MUF) in 1987. Farooq Abdullah was declared the winner. The Muslim United Front (MUF) accused that the polls were rigged, and it is well acknowledged by the national and international media as well, resulting in wide outrage and disillusionment.

Insurgency in the valley increased in momentum from this point on, given the consistent failure of democracy. The MUF candidate, Mohammad Yousuf Shah, was not only falsely implicated in the allegedly rigged elections, but was also imprisoned, which led to the rise of Syed Salahuddin, the chief of the militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahedin, currently heading the United Jihad Council. His allies, the HAJY group – Abdul Hamid Shaikh, Ashfaq Majid Wani, Javed Ahmed Mir and Mohammed Yasin Malik, formed the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).

MUF was a cluster of all the socio-political and religious organizations who wanted to resolve the dispute by peaceful means. But the Indian government did not allow the movement to flourish. In fact, it rendered the movement directionless by caging its leaders and activists.

This is for those Indian journalists and political leaders who question the credibility of the Kashmiri pro-freedom leaders, and ask them to contest election to show their representative character. 1987 is the best example for them to get acquainted with the political situation in Kashmir.

The rigging of the 1987 elections stands testimony to the fact that Kashmiris have tried every peaceful measure to get the dispute resolved. Rigging the elections and caging the leaders, as discussed earlier, left the wave irrefutably vagrant, and left the masses feeling dejected.

The fateful rigging gave birth to an armed struggle. Kashmir witnessed the worst kind of atrocities in the 90’s. Fake encounters, custodial deaths, rapes, torture, enforced disappearances, massacres, burning of villages, and what not! In the name of collateral damage, thousands of houses and business establishments were destroyed.

Had the Indian state been sincere in its efforts, and helped in conducting free and fair elections in 1987, one has strong reasons to believe that the political scenario in Kashmir would have been different. From participation in elections to peaceful demonstrations, Kashmir has tried to get out of the dispute. The people of Kashmir will continue this struggle till it reaches the logical culmination.

No one would in their right minds would support violence unless they are pushed to. After an armed struggle for almost two decades, and the sacrifice of one generation, there was a complete transition in the people of Kashmir, opting for non-violent, peaceful demonstrations in 2008, 2009 and 2010. However, the state behaved routinely, murdering more than 200 unarmed youth, which pushed some more youth to resume the armed struggle.

As the elections approach, a grand drama is expected to unfold. Though the elections under the supervision of the Indian government don’t hold any mandate over the political dispute of Jammu & Kashmir, still the Indian corporate media projects it as a legitimate mandate to India.

I would like to conclude here by addressing our demand to freedom. It is high time to chalk out a joint strategy. As elections in Jammu & Kashmir are approaching, Indian political parties are trying to divide people on communal lines. BJP is all set to make our legitimate struggle for right to self-determination, a communal fight. With the help of groups like NC, PDP and other regional parties, Delhi has always created confusion and a wedge between the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Time and again, these people change stands and divert issues for their petty interests.

We all should act against a united force that has taken a hard line stance on Kashmir, rejecting its own stands on Kashmir.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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