Kashmiri Pandits Protest Missing Names on Electoral Rolls in Jammu

Kashmiri Pandit migrant voters protested at a polling station in Jammu, alleging their names were missing from the electoral rolls. The Election Commission acknowledged the issue, attributing it to outdated data, and assured steps to resolve the problem.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Kashmiri Pandits Protest Missing Names on Electoral Rolls in Jammu

Kashmiri Pandits Protest Missing Names on Electoral Rolls in Jammu

Kashmiri Pandit migrant voters staged a protest at a polling station in Jammu on May 13, alleging mismanagement in the electoral process for the elections. The protesters claimed that their names were missing from the voters' list of the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, effectively denying them their right to vote.

Why this matters: This incident highlights the ongoing struggles of the Kashmiri Pandit community to exercise their democratic rights and participate in the electoral process, despite being displaced from their native land. It also raises concerns about the efficiency and accuracy of the electoral process in India, which can have broader implications for the country's democratic system.

The issue came to light when Kashmiri Pandits turned out in numbers to cast their votes at special polling booths set up for them in Jammu's Barnai village. Many were disappointed to find their names missing from the electoral rolls, despite holding valid voter ID cards and being registered voters.

Veena, a resident of Jagti camp and a migrant from the erstwhile Habbakadal area of Srinagar, expressed her frustration, saying, "I came to the polling station with three members of my family to cast our votes despite such heat. We carried our EPIC (voter ID) cards too. But we found our names missing from the electoral roll. It is a denial of our right to vote."

Similar sentiments were echoed by Avinash Raina from the erstwhile Budgam area of Srinagar and Kashmiri Pandit Kuldeep Kumar, who reported that over 20 people from his colony were barred from voting due to their names being absent from the voter list, despite possessing EPIC cards.

The Election Commission had set up 26 polling stations for the 52,100 registered Kashmiri migrant voters from the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, with 21 stations in Jammu, four in Delhi, and one in Udhampur. The special booths were arranged to enable the displaced Pandits to vote and stay connected to their roots.

Dr. Riaz Ahmed, the Assistant Electoral Returning Officer for Migrants, acknowledged the problem and attributed it to outdated data used to prepare the electoral lists. He assured that steps would be taken to resolve the issues and instructed polling staff to allow affected voters to cast their votes.

The Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s due to militancy and cross-border terrorism, have long demanded rehabilitation and representation in their native land. The primary issue for many of these voters was the safe return and resettlement of the community on their native soil.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is witnessing a multi-cornered contest, with 24 candidates in the fray, including influential Shia leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi and PDP's youth unit president Waheed Para. The counting of votes for all Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere is scheduled for June 4.

The protest by Kashmiri Pandit voters highlights the challenges faced by the community in exercising their democratic rights and the need for better management of the electoral process. As Dr. Ramesh Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit, poignantly remarked, "The scars that we carry and the pain of being away from our native soil will, perhaps, never heal. However, I am happy how the Election Commission arranged for us to vote today as it enabled us to stay connected to our roots."

Key Takeaways

  • Kashmiri Pandit migrant voters protested at a Jammu polling station, alleging their names were missing from the electoral rolls.
  • Many voters held valid ID cards but were denied their right to vote in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency.
  • The issue affects the community's ability to exercise democratic rights and participate in the electoral process.
  • The Election Commission attributed the problem to outdated data and promised to resolve the issue.
  • The incident highlights the challenges faced by Kashmiri Pandits in exercising their democratic rights.