J&K voting reform: Hope for Pandits

18 August, 2022 | Pranay Lad

J&K voting reform: Hope for Pandits Headlines

Election Voting: An election official said on Wednesday that Jammu and Kashmir is likely to gain around 25 lakh additional voters, including outsiders, as a result of the special summary revision o...

Election Voting: An election official said on Wednesday that Jammu and Kashmir is likely to gain around 25 lakh additional voters, including outsiders, as a result of the special summary revision of electoral rolls being held for the first time since the repeal of Article 370.

Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti reacted angrily to the announcement by Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar, saying it will not help the BJP when the people of J&K are given the right to vote.

Mr. Kumar described the ongoing effort to complete the special summary revision of electoral rolls by November 25 as a “difficult task.”

The massive exercise is underway to ensure that all eligible voters, including those who will turn 18 on October 1, 2022, or earlier, are enrolled to provide an “error-free” final list, according to the chief electoral officer.

According to the Election Commission’s recently revised timeline, an integrated draught electoral roll will be published on September 15, with the period for filing claims and objections set between September 15 and October 25, with their resolution by November 10.

The check of health parameters, as well as obtaining the commission’s permission for final publication, database updating, and supplement printing, was scheduled for November 19 before the publication of final electoral rolls on November 25.

“The special summary revision of electoral rolls is taking place for the first time after January 1, 2019, and we expect massive changes in the voter list given that a large number of young people have reached the age of 18 or 18 plus over the last three years.”

“With the repeal of Article 370, many people who were not enlisted as voters in the former state of J&K are now eligible to vote, and anyone who is living ordinarily can also avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K under the provisions of the Peoples Act,” Mr Kumar said.

According to the last voter list, the projected 18-plus population of J&K is around 98 lakh, while the number of enlisted voters is 76 lakh.

“We expect 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list,” Mr Kumar said, adding that officials have been warned to ensure the final list is “error-free.”

Mr Kumar stated that a person does not need to have a J&K domicile certificate to vote.
“An employee, a student, a labourer, or anyone from outside who is ordinarily resident in J&K may add his or her name to the voting list. The documents will be scrutinised by government officials who will decide once they are satisfied with the claim.”

He stated that, as in the past, J&K residents working in security forces and posted outside the Union Territory can register as service voters and use the postal balloting facility.

Likewise, those from different parts of the country who are posted here have the option that if they are posted in a peace station they can enlist themselves as voters. Jammu is a peace station and anyone from outside posted in armed forces in the city can avail the option to enlist as a voter,” he said.

He said after the delimitation exercise the number of assembly seats increased to 90.
“All the 90 constituencies have witnessed some sort of change… We are undertaking to map of old constituencies with new constituencies and it will be followed by the special summary revision (SSR),” Kumar said, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing pre-SSR activities.

According to the chief electoral officer, the modified registration forms include a provision for linking Aadhaar numbers to electoral roll data.

“They are registered voters in their home constituencies (Kashmiri Pandit migrants). Special camps are being organised for them in various locations, including Delhi, Jammu, and Udhampur, to register new voters, and all of them will be issued voter ID cards “He stated.

He denied that Rohingya Muslims who have sought refuge in Jammu and other parts of the state could register to vote. “We have officers in place, and they are aware of their responsibilities.”

In response to the chief electoral officer’s statement, National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Is the BJP so insecure about support from genuine J&K voters 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,” Omar Abdullah said.

Mehbooba Mufti stated on Twitter, “The GOI’s decision to postpone elections in J&K was preceded by egregious gerrymandering that tipped the scales in the BJP’s favour, and now allowing non-locals to vote is intended to influence election results. The real goal is to continue ruling J&K with an iron fist to disempower the locals.”

Sajad Lone of the J&K Peoples Conference stated, “This is hazardous. I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish. This is much more than a prank. In the context of Kashmir, democracy is a relic. Please recall 1987. We have yet to recover from that. Don’t go back to 1987. It will be just as bad.”

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