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J&K Elections: Govt Begins Nationwide Campaign To Enrol Kashmir Migrants As Voters

The J&K government has formed different teams to ensure Kashmiri pandits, who have been living in different parts of the country since their exodus in 1990, enrol themselves as voters and vote in the upcoming Assembly and the parliamentary polls.

J&K govt begins nationwide exercise to enrol migrant Kashmiri voters (Image for representation)
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Amid regional political parties appealing to the Election Commission of India to hold the polls, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has started country-wide exercises to enrol Kashmiri migrant pandits as voters. Political leaders see the exercise as a sign for the coming polls.

Officials said the Relief and Rehabilitation Department has formed different teams to ensure Kashmiri pandits, who have been living in different parts of the country since their migration in 1990, enrol themselves as voters and vote in Assembly and the parliamentary polls.

Since a large number of the migrants are in Jammu, the Relief and Rehabilitation department has started a “Zonal Area Awareness Campaign”. The campaign will facilitate and ensure the enrolment of eligible Kashmiri migrant voters in the electoral rolls of their original constituencies of residence. The campaign in Jammu started on April 10 and will conclude on April 20.

In the rest of India, the Relief and Rehabilitation Department has visited states including Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat to enrol Kashmiri pandits as bonafide voters of Kashmir. The process began on April 5 and will end on April 20. The objective of the process is to secure maximum participation of Kashmiri pandits in the Assembly elections whenever they are held in J&K.

Currently, there are 1,20,000 migrant voters registered with the department. 
The Election Commission of India has also come up with video clippings in Hindi and English to inform the voters about the power of voting. The video clippings say Kashmiri pandits are aborigines of the Valley and it is land of their ancestors where Lord Shiva and Mother Bhagwati are present in many forms.”

“History is witness that governments were formed with one vote and also fell with one vote. Realise the importance and value of your vote,” reads the video clip message of the Election Commission of India asking migrant Kashmiri pandits to enrol themselves as voters and cast their vote in upcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP’s official handle has tweeted such an appeal.

Vivek Agnihotri, director-producer of The Kashmir Files, has also appealed to Kashmiri pandits to register themselves as voters. “My dear Kashmiri Pandit friends, Please register yourself as voters in J&K immediately and protect your identity and motherland. Pl share with your KP friends.”

According to the Relief and Rehabilitation Department, “around 60,000 families migrated from the valley during the turmoil and majority of these families preferred to settle in Jammu and its adjoining areas and around 23,000 such migrant families settled outside the J&K.”
The J&K government's move to start the country-wide campaign has given political parties a glimmer of hope. Ghulam Hassan Mir, a senior leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party says the enrolment exercise for Kashmiri pandits is a routine exercise and has nothing to do with the polls. However, he said, there are visible signs and hints that point out that the ECI might announce polls in J&K. “I think now the weather is clear and conducive for polls. The security situation has also improved and I think this is a good time to hold polls,” Mir said.  
Jammu and Kashmir have been without an Assembly since November 2018 when the then the legislative assembly was dissolved by then governor Satya Pal Malik after the PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti staked claim to form the government. Governor’s rule was imposed in J&K in June 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government.

On May 6 last year, the delimitation commission finalised its two-year-long exercises recommending the creation of six additional assembly constituencies in the Jammu region and one more in the Kashmir valley. It was expected that the completion of the process of redrawing the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir would pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory (UT).

But after the delimitation commission report, the ECI started work on the revised voter list and completed it in November last year publishing over seven lakh new voters taking the total number of electorates in the Union Territory (UT) to 83,59,771.  Since then the different political parties are pushing for the elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

On March 6, this year, Dr Farooq Abdullah led a delegation of all political parties to the Election Commission of India saying the ECI is under a constitutional obligation to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The delegation, in its memorandum presented to the ECI in New Delhi, said that the delay and denial of assembly elections in J&K would amount to a denial of the fundamental and democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The delegation said the assembly election would be the first and most important step towards the restoration of all the constitutional rights guaranteed in the constitution of India and the fulfilment of the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

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