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Political row in Kashmir as non-locals get voter rights

Voters line up at an election booth in Kashmir | Picture: Financial Express


Any Indian citizen, including non-locals who live or work in Jammu and Kashmir, will be eligible to register to vote and participate in the assembly and local body elections in the union territory.

Ubair ul Hameed | TwoCircles.net 

SRINAGAR (JAMMU AND KASHMIR) — The announcement by Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Hirdesh Kumar, that non-locals, such as workers, students, and labourers, as well as anyone from outside who ordinarily reside in Jammu and Kashmir, will be able to register their names on the voting list and vote in the J&K elections, has raised concerns in the union territory. 

Any Indian citizen, including non-locals who live or work in Jammu and Kashmir, will be eligible to register to vote and participate in the assembly and local body elections in the union territory, according to the election commission. 

Armed forces posted in “peace stations” can avail this option. J&K is home to a sizable population of migrant workers and security professionals. 

Many service industries, including the hotel sector and manufacturing, are dominated by labour from outside of J&K. 

According to the 2011 Census data, Jammu and Kashmir is home to 2.8 non-local migrant workers, 14 lakh of them have worked there for ten years or more. 3.35 lakh, or 12%, have worked there for five to nine years.

Political parties in the erstwhile state have raised concerns against the move.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, “Is the BJP so insecure about support from genuine voters of J&K that it needs to import temporary voters to win seats? None of these things will help the BJP when the people of J&K are given a chance to exercise their franchise.”

Former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti said the move to allow outsiders residing in Jammu and Kashmir as voters was “aimed at finishing off the democracy”.

“This is the last nail in the coffin of democracy here. Earlier, they did half the rigging through the delimitation commission. The head (of the commission) has been duly rewarded. Democracy is being finished,” she told reporters on Thursday.

Mufti said that the BJP was implementing the “strategy of Nazi Germany and Israel here so that they may establish a fascist” in charge. 

“But they should remember that Hitler was not able to eliminate Jews and Israel will not be able to finish of Palestinians. The same way they cannot do it here as well till the last Dogra and last Kashmiri is standing,” Mufti said.

Mufti said that the BJP was “using a back-door and bringing 2.5 million voters of BJP to bring demographic changes in the region.”

Locals in Jammu, on Thursday, held demonstrations against the order.

The demonstrators demanded that the JK government and the Prime Minister of India cancel the order and prevent non-locals from registering their votes in Jammu and Kashmir.

One of the demonstrators, referring to the order as “Tughlaqi Farmaan,” stated, “The new dictate is diminishing our real demand of the restoration of the special status, state subject, and statehood.”

Ubair ul Hameed is a fellow with the SEED-TCN Mentorship Program. He tweets at @UbairUlHameed

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