Jammu: A day after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar announced that the erstwhile state is likely to have 25 lakh new votes in the next election, with non-locals registering to vote for the first time in JK, besides region’s political parties, locals in Jammu have come out on road staging the protest against the order.
Holding banners and shouting slogans against the Election Commission of India’s decision at High Court road Janipur in Jammu, scores of the protesters sought the JK administration and Prime Minister of India to revoke the order and not allow the outsiders to register their votes in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The new dictate is weakening our genuine demand of the restoration of the special status, state subject, and statehood,” said one of the protesters terming the order ‘Tughlaqi Farmaan’.
The protestors also tore and set the printed copies of the statement Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar announced on Wednesday, on fire.
Earlier, JK politicians including the formers Chief Ministers of the erstwhile state were the first to express resentment over the move terming it ‘disastrous’.
National Conference (NC) Vice president and former chief minister of erstwhile JK state, Omar Abdullah said that such moves will not help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when the people of JK are given a chance to cast their ballots.
“Is the BJP so insecure about support from genuine voters of JK that it needs to import temporary voters to win seats? None of these things will help the BJP when the people of JK are given a chance to exercise their franchise,” Omar tweeted.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti said that such decisions are aimed to influence the election results, but the real aim is to continue ruling J&K with an iron fist to disempower locals.
“GOIs decision to defer polls in J&K preceded by egregious gerrymandering tilting the balance in BJPs favour & now allowing non locals to vote is obviously to influence election results. Real aim is to continue ruling J&K with an iron fist to disempower locals,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Peoples Conference (PC) Chairman, Sajad Gani Lone while reacting to the statement of the Chief Electoral Officer of JK that every citizen of the country staying in J&K can have voting rights in assembly elections, said that such a step would be a replay of 1987.
Taking to the micro-blogging platform Twitter, Sajad said, “This is dangerous. I don’t know what they want to achieve. This is much more than mischief. Democracy is a relic, especially in the context of Kashmir. Please remember 1987. We are yet to come out of that. Don’t replay 1987. It will be as disastrous.”
CPI (M) senior leader, Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami said that what CEO has said amounts to disenfranchising the people of Jammu and Kashmir further. “The delimitation process through Re-organisation Act was an attempt to change the electoral demography of the region,” he said.
“In the absence of any representative government in J&K, the union government has been exercising undiluted control in the region through a bureaucratic structure since June 2018. Today’s statement of CEO is a brazen assault on the legitimate aspirations of the people,” Tarigami said.
Apni Party in a statement said that the presser of JK CEO has raised concerns about the disempowerment of the people of JK. Apni Party urged the Government of India to come clear on the matter as prima facie this is aimed at disempowerment the people further.
“While the party is studying the legal implications of this move, we urge the Government of India to take into account the aspirations and concerns of the people of J&K as it may have far-reaching ramifications,” Apni Party said.
“We hope that supremacy of Law is upheld and no illegal or arbitrary decision is taken. Apni Party will fight for the protection of the rights of the people and we won’t allow any unconstitutional move that is contrary to the aspirations of the people,” Apni Party said.
The decision was announced on Wednesday with Hirdesh Kumar saying that around 25 lakh new voters are expected to be enrolled in the Union Territory as the special summary revision of electoral rolls is being held for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
He also described the ongoing exercise to complete the special summary revision of electoral rolls by November 25 as a “challenging task”.
The massive exercise to complete the process in time is going on to ensure that all the eligible voters including those who have attained the age of 18 years on October 1, 2022 or earlier are enrolled to provide an “error-free” final list, the report quoted Kumar as saying.
According to the rescheduled timeline issued by the election commission recently, an integrated draft electoral roll will be published on September 15, while the period for filing claims and objections was set between September 15 to October 25 followed by disposal of claims and objections on November 10.
Checking of health parameters and obtaining the commission’s permission for final publication and updating the database and printing of supplements was fixed 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 so we are expecting massive changes in the voter list given the fact that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 or 18 plus over the past three years.
“After the abrogation of Article 370, many people who were not enlisted as voters in the erstwhile state of J&K are now eligible to vote and in addition anyone who is living ordinarily can also avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K in accordance with the provisions of representation of the Peoples Act,” Kumar told reporters here.
He said the projected population of J&K who are 18 plus are around 98 lakhs, while the number of enlisted voters is 76 lakh according to the last voter list.
“We are expecting an addition of 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list,” Kumar said, adding the Booth Level Officers, Electoral Registration Officers, Assistant Electoral Registration officers and District Election Officers have been sensitized to ensure that the final list will be “error free” and will also cover all the eligible voters.
Kumar said there is no need for a person to have a domicile certificate of J&K to become a voter. “An employee, a student, a labourer or anyone from outside who is living ordinarily in J&K, can enlist his or her name in the voting list.
The documents will be scrutinized by the government officials concerned who will take a decision after being satisfied about the claim.” He said like in the past, many residents of J&K who are working in armed forces and paramilitary forces and are posted outside the Union Territory have an option to get themselves registered as service voters and can avail the facility of postal ballot to register their choice at the time of the elections.
“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 commission submitted its report on May 5 and the union law ministry implemented the report on May 20, the number of assembly seats in J&K increased to 90.
“All the 90 constituencies have witnessed some sort of change… We are presently undertaking mapping 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.
He said 600 polling stations have been added and now the total number of polling stations across Jammu and Kashmir has gone up to 11,370.
Kumar said the commission is planning to undertake door-to-door campaigning and also organize special camps in educational institutions for the awareness of the eligible voters.
The chief electoral officer said provision has been made in the modified registration forms for linking of Aadhaar numbers with electoral roll data, the objective of which is to establish the identity of electors and authentication of entries in the electoral roll.
He said the commission will issue new voter Identity cards which will have new security features.
About Kashmiri migrants residing outside the valley, he said there is already a special provision for the such displaced population to enable them to exercise their franchise.
“They (Kashmiri Pandit migrants) are registered as voters in their home constituencies. Special camps are being organized for them at different places including Delhi, Jammu and Udhampur for registration of new voters and all of them will be given voter ID cards,” he said.
He dismissed the notion that Rohingya Muslims, who have taken shelter in Jammu and other parts, can get themselves registered as voters. “We have officers in place and they know their duty”, the news agency report added.
On the holding of assembly elections, he said the Election Commission of India is the authority that can take a decision on the timing of the polls.