Gupkar Alliance to hold all-party meet in Jammu over ‘non-local voters’ matter

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In an attempt to garner the support of more political and social parties against the inclusion of “non-locals” in Jammu and Kashmir’s electoral roll, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is holding an all-party meeting next month, reported Press Trust of India (PTI).

Senior CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami on Monday said the meeting will take place under the leadership of PAGD president Farooq Abdullah at his Jammu residence and is scheduled for 2 pm on 10 September.

“The all-party meeting is part of the ongoing consultations to come out with a joint strategy to stand united against any move to include outsiders in the electoral rolls in a bid to influence election results,” Tarigami, who is also PAGD’s convener and spokesperson, told PTI.

The alliance had convened a similar meeting in Srinagar on 22 August, which was attended by the Congress, Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal (Mann), besides all of its constituents.

However, the Sajjad Lone-led People’s Conference and Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party had stayed away.

“Any decision to include non-locals in electoral rolls of Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable and will be contested by all means, including in court,” Abdullah, the National Conference (NC) president and a former chief minister, had said after the meeting.

Abdullah, who chaired that meeting, had said they were united against the move to extend the voting right to “outsiders” as it would rob J-K of its identity.

“The state’s identity is about to end. The Dogras, Kashmiris, Paharis or Gujjars or Sikhs, who reside here, will lose their identity. The assembly will be in the hands of the outsiders. We all oppose it,” he had said.

PAGD, an amalgam of five political parties – NC, PDP, CPI(M), CPI and Awami National Conference – is campaigning for the restoration of J-K’s special status within the Indian Constitution.

Tarigami, who is in Jammu for the past couple of days, said invitations will be forwarded to all parties except the BJP to attend the “important meeting”.

The BJP has been critical of the PAGD and has accused the NC, Peoples Democratic Party and other parties of spreading “propaganda” to poison the minds of the people over the issue of “inclusion of non-local voters” in the revised electoral rolls.

“There is no issue of ‘locals or non-locals’ as the Constitution gives all citizens the right to vote in the country after attaining the age of 18. The Representation of the People Act was implemented across the country in 1950 and was extended to Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 (in August 2019),” BJP president Ravinder Raina had said, adding the revision of electoral rolls was taking place in accordance with the Act.

However, senior AAP leader and former minister Harsh Dev Singh had accused the BJP of misrepresenting and misinterpreting the law to justify the inclusion of non-local voters in J-K.

The controversy erupted after Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar said J-K is likely to get around 25 lakh additional voters, including outsiders, after the special summary revision of electoral rolls, which are being held for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration, however, had issued a clarification, saying the reports were a “misrepresentation of facts by vested interests” and the increase in numbers will be due to the voters who would attain the age of 18 years by 1 October 2022.

Dissatisfied with the clarification, the NC and other parties claimed the administration has not addressed their main concern on whether “outsiders” ordinarily residing in Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to enroll as voters. (PTI)

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