23 October 2018


Ajit Kumar Singh, S. Binodkumar Singh


INDIA: J&K: Political Fiasco 
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

On October 13, 2018, elections for the third of the four-phase Municipal Elections 2018, were held in 96 wards spread across the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The average polling percentage in this phase worked out to a sorry 16.4 per cent. Elections for the second phase on October 10, 2018, held across 263 wards, recorded an average of 31.3 per cent poling. On October 10, 2018, elections for the first phase were held across 321 wards, with 56.6 per cent of voters participating. The State average after the completion of the third phase of polls stands at 41.9 per cent.

The fourth phase of the polls are scheduled to be held on October 16, 2018. The date of counting is October 20, 2018.

Earlier, on September 15, 2018, the State Election Commission had announced the four phase Municipal Elections 2018 to be held across 1,145 wards of 79 Municipal Bodies. The last Municipal Elections in the state were held in the year 2005 through secret ballot and the term of the elected officials expired in February 2010.

In the current cycle, several Pakistan-backed terrorist formations had openly issued threats against participation in the polls. For instance, on October 1, 2018, a video of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) ‘commander’ Suhaib Akhoon aka Romee surfaced on social media in Kashmir, in which he can be seen issuing a threat to those who had filed their nominations for the municipal polls. He told candidates to withdraw their nomination forms within three days, failing which they would face dire consequences.

Significantly, however, no poll related violence has been recorded during the first three phases. Moreover, around 3,372 candidates filed their nomination for 79 municipal Bodies. A total of 1,473 candidates filed their nominations for the first phase; another 1,198 for the second phase; 441 for the third phase; and 260 for the fourth phase. The poling percentage was appreciably high in Jammu Division, at an average of 68.4 per cent after three phases.

However, no nomination was filed for 13 wards in the Frisal Municipal Committee of Kulgam District (phase 1); and for 13 wards in Khrew Municipal Committee of Pulwama District (phase 4), both falling in the Kashmir Division. Moreover, a total of 244 candidates were elected uncontested from 244 wards, 231 of which were from Kashmir Division. 78 candidates were elected uncontested in the first phase, 65 in the second phase, 49 in the third phase. 52 candidates have already been declared elected without contest for polls scheduled to be held on October 16. The polling percentage in Kashmir Division was at a low of just 6.7 per cent on the average after three phases.

Significantly, in the General elections of April-May 2014, when terrorist and separatist formations had, given a call for boycott, the voter turnout was 31.18 per cent in the Kashmir Division, and 49.52 per cent on the average for the State. In the State Assembly Elections subsequently held in November-December 2014, when terrorist and separatist formations had, again, given a call for boycott, the voter turnout was 56.50 per cent in the Kashmir Division, and 65.52 per cent on the average for the State. 

While violence or the threat of violence may, on first sight, be thought to be a principal cause for the low voter turnout in the Kashmir division, such an assessment would not be consistent with the realities of the ground. Crucially, violence is not widespread across the Valley, and is now limited to few specific pockets as has been highlighted by SAIR in the past. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), in 2018, out of 82 tehsils in the State, fatalities were reported from only 35. Moreover, the five worst affected tehsils recorded 153 of the total of 316 fatalities (i.e. 48.42 per cent). Similarly, of 82 tehsils, incidents of stone pelting were reported from 28. The five worst affected tehsils recorded 170 incidents out of total 266 (63.90 per cent). In both the categories (fatalities and stone peltings), the five worst-affected tehsils were in the Kashmir Division - Shopian, Pulwama, Srinagar South, Kupwara, and Kulgam. The Kashmir Division has a total of 38 tehsils.

The most significant reason for the low voter turnout in the current municipal elections has been the political ineptitude of the Centre in pushing the election schedule forward without attempting to carry Valley-based political parties along. The National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which dominate the Valley, had announced their decision to boycott the elections, unless the Centre and the State Government clarified their stance on Articles 370 (autonomous status of J&K) and 35A (special rights and privileges of ‘permanent residents’) of the Indian Constitution. The two articles have been a critical element in the polarizing politics of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which holds power at the Centre. 35A is the subject of ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court, and each hearing provokes significant political tremors in the Valley. The BJP has an insignificant presence across the Kashmir Division (all but one of its 34 candidates in the Valley lost their deposits in the Assembly elections of 2014). The other national party, the Indian National Congress (INC) has never been a force to reckon with and has limited reach.

In an interview published on September 24, 2018, former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah observed,

It is the Centre that forced our hand to opt out of the elections by not making its stand clear on Article 35A... the PDP and the NC have 43 MLAs in the 87-member assembly. That means half of the State’s legislative footprint is out of the fray.

On September 29, 2018, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, Additional General Secretary of NC, had also noted,

Major mainstream regional parties are on the same page as far as participation in the elections are concerned. The sparse participation of the candidates and the non-participation of the major regional parties would prove the whole exercise a farcical one.

Later on, October 13, 2018, Abdullah tweeted,

From the highest turnouts since 1987 in 2014 to the lowest turnouts ever recorded in 2018 why is the Modi Government able to get away with its disastrous handing of Kashmir almost unquestioned?

The BJP-led Union Government, which had decided to conduct the polls, went ahead with its decision and made no genuine effort to reach out to the major parties calling for a boycott, chosing, instead, to ignore the writing on the wall. On the other hand, it chose to launch a campaign of denigration against NC and PDP, making several irresponsible statements. Ram Madhav, National General Secretary, BJP, thus alleged,

PDP and NC workers are trying to scuttle the election process the same way the terrorists and their over-ground workers are. We have reports that in many places in the Valley where people go to file nominations as independents, they are being threatened by the workers of these parties.

While the entire process of Municipal Elections will be over by October 27, the Panchayat (village level local self-Government institution) elections are slated to follow soon. On September 16, the State Election Commission had announced a nine-phase schedule for Panchayat elections, beginning November 17 and ending December 11, with the entire election process to be completed by December 17.

It is imperative for the Centre to now make honest efforts to bring NC and PDP into the electoral process, to cement democracy in the State and undercut the sway of the separatist and extremist constituencies. It is significant that the last Panchayat elections in the State, held in April-June 2011, were immensely successful, with over 79 per cent of the electorate exercising their right to vote. Though the Panchayats completed their term in July 2016, elections have not been held purportedly on the grounds that the security situation in the state remained fraught.

While there has been an escalation in violence in J&K over the 2013-2018 period, elections the Municipal bodies’ elections have been held virtually without incident and, despite the low rate of participation in the Valley, there is no reason to believe that there is no enthusiasm among the people to engage in the democratic exercise. Polarizing politics and growing mistrust of the Centre and its intentions with regard to crucial issues that agitate Valley populations have, however, pushed both the population and their representative political parties away from the electoral process. Unless this mistrust is addressed, the credibility of democratic processes in the State will come under question, creating widening grounds for further alienation and radicalization.


Hopes Belied 
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On October 7, 2018, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli at a book launching ceremony in Kathmandu promised, “If someone had committed crime in the name of Maoist War, then they will be punished: there will be no amnesty for serious crimes. We are going to follow the international conventions we have signed.” Earlier, addressing the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 27, 2018, Prime Minister Oli had observed

Nepal’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights is total and unflinching. We hold that development, democracy and respect for human rights as interdependent and mutually reinforcing. As a member of the Human Rights Council, we will continue to play our constructive role to deliver on Council’s mandates. The ongoing transitional justice process in Nepal respects the comprehensive peace accord as well as the ground reality for sustaining peace and delivering justice. We will not allow impunity in serious violations of human rights and humanitarian laws.

Notably, on October 5, 2018, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs came up with a fresh ‘preliminary draft’ to amend the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act 2014 (TRC Act) in line with international standards. Earlier, the Draft Amendment Bill on the TRC Act tabled on June 28, 2018, was rejected by the conflict victims as the draft had proposed perpetrators would not get amnesty in serious human rights violations, but could get waiver in sentences as per the prevailing laws — up to 60 per cent if they did not reveal the truth and did not assist the court, but if they assisted the court, revealed the truth, apologized to the victims and pledged not to commit such crimes again, they could get waiver of punishment up to 75 per cent.

The two transitional justice bodies – Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP), were formed on February 7, 2015, in the spirit of the Interim Constitution of 2007 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2006, to probe instances of serious violations of human rights and determine the status of those who disappeared in the course of the armed conflict between the State and the then Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), between February 13, 1996, and November 21, 2006. However, these bodies have less than five months to the end of their extended tenure. As a result of their failure to accomplish their assigned tasks, their terms have been extended twice, the latest one pushing the deadline to mid-February 2019. In the three-and-a-half years of its existence, TRC has completed preliminary investigation into hardly 2,800 cases among the 63,000 filed, and is yet to complete a detailed probe into a single case. The CIEDP, which received some 3,000 complaints, has completed preliminary investigation into some 500, but has failed to launch a single detailed investigation.

The fact is, the two transitional justice bodies have made little or no progress in investigating war-era cases of human rights violations, as the Government continues to delay the release of funds necessary for the process. TRC and CIEDP have received no money for investigation despite their persistent lobbying for funds since the beginning of the current fiscal year. This means that both TRC and CIEDP, with around five months to investigate 63,000 and 3,000 cases registered before them, respectively, have little or no resources to complete their mandate. Out of total NR 130 million required by CIEDP, the Government has released NR 40 million for staff salary, and NR 30 million to pay experts and contract officials. But officials say there is no money for travel, which is critical to the investigation of thousands of cases. The situation at TRC is worse. The commission needed NR 117 million for the current fiscal year, towards salary, travel costs, and a stipend for employees, as well as allowances for the victims who need to travel to TRC offices to record their statements. The Government released just NR 37.70 million from state coffers in mid-July.

Following delays by the Government and the transitional justice bodies in providing justice to conflict victims, a group of human rights activists on September 23, 2018, started consultations with political parties and conflict victims to form a common strategy for concluding investigations. The group held rounds of consultation with top leaders of major parties to find common grounds to provide justice for the victims – a crucial component of the peace process that began in 2006. They also met with representatives of conflict victims on September 24, 2018, to seek their suggestions. Members of the group said there has been a broad understanding that the TRC and the CIEDP cannot complete their tasks without the parities’ commitment.

Separately, annoyed by and impatient at the delays of the transitional justice bodies and the federal Government, Bhagiram Chaudhari, President of the Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP), an umbrella body of 13 organizations advocating justice of war-era victims, on September 30, 2018, stated, “We have consulted with different local governments and they have agreed to take initiatives for reparation. This would be a step forward in consoling the victims who have been completely ignored by the federal government.” Further, in a bid to pressure the authorities, a group of rights activists led by Ram Kumar Bhandari on October 4, 2018, collected items belonging to over 100 disappeared persons for exhibition titled 'Memory, Truth and Justice'. Family members have preserved items of clothing, household implements, books, letters and other belongings of the disappeared. Meanwhile, on October 4, 2018, amid the failure of the federal Government to provide reparation to the victims of Maoist insurgency, local Governments in the Bardiya District of Province No. 5 started naming local infrastructure after the deceased and disappeared, and paying respect to the victims’ families.

On October 8, 2018, urging the Government to come up with a law criminalizing conflict-era torture and enforced disappearance, the National Network of the Families of the Disappeared and Missing (NEFAD) Chairman Ram Kumar Bhandari observed, “There were different possibilities that the government could adopt to prosecute the war crimes. The government could either make amendments to the laws of the TRC and the CIEDP and revamp the two bodes by changing the leadership, or hand over the cases to the NHRC with a high-level political mechanism.”

Expressing concern over the provision of community service for war criminals involved in serious human rights violations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on August 8, 2018, suggested dropping the community service provision in the Transitional Justice Related Bill-2018. NHRC Secretary Bed Prasad Bhattarai stated, “Granting amnesty to rights abusers under the pretext of community service is not in line with the norms of transitional justice. The international community will not accept such provision nor is the provision in accordance with the past Supreme Court verdicts.” Similarly, NHRC member Sudip Pathak noted, “One found guilty in severe cases of human rights violations must be jailed. Only community service is not going to work. It will be injustice to the victims if the perpetrators don’t even get jail sentence.”

International human rights bodies also reiterated the concerns of the conflict victims in Nepal. Calling on authorities to take into account concerns of all stakeholders and to ensure that the amendments comply with international human rights and international crime standards, Amnesty International (AI), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and TRIAL International on July 20, 2018, observed, “The legitimacy and viability of the Government of Nepal’s draft ‘Bill to Amend the Act on Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation, 2014’ must be questioned due to the lack of a meaningful consultation process, and serious shortcomings when evaluated against international law and standards.” Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a statement released on July 25, 2018, noted that the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act Amendment Bill fails to fully adhere to global practices. Urging the Nepal Government to provide information about missing persons, André Paquet, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission in Nepal, stated, on August 28, 2018,

We strongly hope that the Commission on Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will make every effort to give the victims and the families some long-awaited answers. People have the right to know what has happened to their missing relatives. The ICRC reminds all the stakeholders, including the Government of Nepal, of their obligation to provide information to the families.

Twelve years after the conflict ended, the victims of Nepal’s decade-long civil war are still waiting for justice, answers, and meaningful reparations. Even though the two transitional justice mechanisms have begun documenting cases and complaints, they have been hampered by an inadequate law that does not meet international standards, as well as by a severe lack of capacity and proper support from the Government. For justice, there needs to be a robust mechanism of investigation and prosecutions, capable of ensuring the full cooperation of both parties to the conflict. Such a mechanism must establish command and responsibility, and identify perpetrators of abuses that include torture, killings, disappearances, and rape. Despite its failure, the victims continue to pin their hopes on a justice process through the transitional justice mechanisms.

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia 
October 8-14, 2018


Security Force Personnel 




Jammu and Kashmir 

INDIA (Left-Wing Extremism) 



INDIA (Total) 




Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Government and a number of foreign embassies in Kabul trying to engineer the upcoming parliamentary election results, says HIA ‘leader’ Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) ‘leader’ Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said on October 12 that Government and a number of embassies of foreign countries in Kabul were trying to engineer the upcoming parliamentary election results. Hekmatyar made the remarks in a meeting of a new movement known as the Grand Assembly of National including National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (Mahaz-e Milli Islami Afghanistan), Afghan Millat Party, Musharekat-e-Milli Party, National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan, the Jamiat Integration Council and HIA among other parties and organizations. Tolo News, October 14, 2018.

Taliban to allow ICRC to resume its operations in Afghanistan: The Taliban have allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resume its operations in Afghanistan. Pajhwok, October 13, 2018.

Taliban to carry out attacks against the election targets during the upcoming Parliamentary and District Council Elections: Taliban militant group in Afghanistan has threatened to carry out attacks against the election targets during the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections. “Those people who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure of this malicious American conspiracy,” the statement added. The Parliamentary and District Council Elections are scheduled to be held on October 20, 2018. Khaama Press, October 10, 2018.

India shall continue to deter cross-border terrorism, says Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman: Addressing the Institute of Strategic Research (ISR) in Paris, France, India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has warned Pakistan that India shall continue to take steps to deter cross-border terrorism. As a responsible Nation, India have always exercised great restraint in dealing with the cross-border terrorism and have also exercised measures to disrupt and deter the activities of the terrorist groups and will continue to do so. Times of India, October 14, 2018.

Indian Coastline on high alert against possible terror attack from LeT and JeM, says report: On the basis of anonymity, the Counterterrorism officials in India has stated that the cargo ships and oil tankers by Pakistan-based terrorist outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) may attack on India’s ports. Following the possibility, the Indian Navy and the Indian Coastal Guard (ICG) are on alert to contain any terrorist attack from sea route. The LeT operatives could hijack cargo ships or oil tankers on high Seas and then attack at the Indian ports or infiltrate as suicide attackers through Sea and Inland water channels. Hindustan Times, October 12, 2018.

FATF slams Pakistan for failing to plug terror funding: Not impressed with Pakistan’s efforts to combat terror financing, a delegation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on October 11 asked it to do more to strengthen its legal framework to avoid being blacklisted by the FATF. FATF’s Asia Pacific Group delegation was not impressed with the progress made by Pakistan so far as it found the legal framework insufficient, and the institutional arrangements weak. Dawn, October 12, 2018.

Office for Reparations Bill passed in Sri Lanka's Parliament: The Office for Reparations Bill was passed in the Parliament with a simple majority vote on October 10. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, "The disappearances not only in the North but also in the South have been reported. Reparations have to be made, Steps should be taken to provide relief to the victimized parties ". The Bill provides for the provision of individual and collective reparations for aggrieved persons who have suffered violations of human rights or humanitarian law. Colombo Page , October 11, 2018.

Sri Lanka has made considerable progress on complying with UNHRC resolution adopted in October 2015, says Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana: Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana on October 9 said Sri Lanka has made considerable progress on complying with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by the US and Sri Lanka and adopted in October 2015. Minister Marapana said the establishment of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), passing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Act, tabling of Reparations Bill and the Counter Terrorism Bill are the steps taken in the right direction by Sri Lanka to fulfil her obligations. Daily Mirror, October 10, 2018.

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