The election office of Jammu and Kashmir announced their decision on 16 September to let the Kashmiri pandit migrants exercise their vote in the upcoming urban local body and Panchayat elections but they call it an “insignificant step.”
The names of the Kashmiri migrants continue to appear in the electoral rolls of assembly constituencies of the Valley, as per the amendments in Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People Act 1957 and Jammu and Kashmir Conduct of Election Rules 1965. Thus, they will be eligible to vote this year.
A spokesman for the election office was quoted by PTI saying that in order to provide Kashmiri migrants facility to exercise their franchise in the municipal elections 2018, they have been notified as a class of persons who shall cast their votes through postal ballots as their names still exist in the electoral list.
The Kashmiri migrants, however, did not rejoice much after the decision and called it an “insignificant step” to bridge the gap between the communities. “We are not in a position to cast votes,” says Rohit Kaul, a Kashmiri migrant.
He believes that due to unfortunate incidents that happened in the past, there is a threat that still looms over the community. “We believe in the democracy,” Koul adds. “I have full faith in it, however, we would require some sort of security blanket for the community so that we don’t have to think twice about visiting our homeland.”
It has been announced that the electoral roll will be available at 16 places including six transit camps in Kashmir for the Kashmiri migrants. They would have to file an application to opt for voting by way of postal ballot. The last date to file an application will also serve as the last date for making nominations for a particular municipal body.
Though, Koul believes that the decision by the election office doesn’t make the voting process easier. “Since a lot of Kashmiri migrants are now settled in either Jammu or Delhi, the polling booths that represent different districts of Kashmir can made be available locally in Jammu and Delhi,” he said.
According to Kashmiri pandit migrants, the execution of such process will enable all the migrants to vote for the betterment of their homeland in a much feasible way.
But Sanjay Tickoo, leader of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) calls the decision being taken in a hasty way by the election office. He feels that the authorities just want to show a certain percentage of migrant voters that appeared to vote so that they can later brag on this fact.
“The decision is completely insignificant as how can I expect the elected local leader to address my grievances when my entire household and work are in some other place. The story is same with every other Kashmiri migrant,” sighed Tickoo.
According to a report published by The Pioneer, names of around 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits, who are residing in Jammu, are missing from the newly prepared voters list. Many Kashmiri pandit leaders and organisations call this act as “constitutional lynching” and have decided to boycott.
The representations submitted by the Kashmiri Pandits to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state demanded that they should be allowed to cast votes on the basis of either 2012 or 2016 electoral rolls when their names existed in the list.
The state municipal elections will be held in four phases from 8 October to 16 October. Taking the count to 79, municipal bodies in the state comprises two municipal corporation, six municipal councils and seventy one municipal committees that will go to polls next month.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is also witnessing chaos and violence ahead of the elections. There are eleven Panchayat houses that have been burnt down by the militants to protest against the upcoming elections. Pro-freedom leaders have also asked people to boycott the elections, following which the two major mainstream parties – National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also called for a boycott.