J&K’s non-BJP political groups fear undermining of the role of natives in elections

Summary revision of electoral rolls in JK is underway since September 15  paving the way for elections in Union Territory

Despite reports circulating in media about the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu Avny Lavasa, having withdrawn her order in which she had authorized the revenue authorities to list all those residing in the district of the Union Territory of  Jammu and Kashmir for more than a year as voters, the apprehensions of non-natives inclusion in the electoral rolls have not disappeared altogether.

Deputy Commissioner  Jammu’s order on Tuesday, in which she had authorized all those residing in the district for more than a year, triggered huge political storm in the  Union Territory. All non-BJP parties, including Congress, National Conference, PDP, and Jammu Kashmir People’s Conference, saw in it design of adding 25 lakh people into the electoral rolls, citing the August 17 press conference of the Chief Electoral Officer, in which he had said that at least these many people could be added to the electoral list.

The government had got a clarification issued that the CEO has been misquoted and only the youth who have attained the age of 18   by October 1, 2022, will be eligible to enroll themselves in the electoral list, during the course of the summary revision of rolls. The summary revision of the electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir is underway since September 15  paving the way for Assembly elections in the Union Territory. These clarifications had not set people’s fears at rest as they were deeply suspicious of the government’s move with regard to additions and alterations in the electoral rolls.

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But on Tuesday when Deputy Commissioner circulated a notice that all those residing in  Jammu district for a year were to be enlisted as voters. This phrase of “residing for more than one year,” term was justified with a brief explanation that ”no eligible voter” should be left behind. This, however, re-invoked the fears of the political parties in the UT that had voiced the concern that this exercise which enabled the non-natives to register as voters, and they saw something fishy in the order.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, known for her no-holds barred, views on  preserving the demographic character  said “ the latest order for registration of new voters  makes it clear  that GOI’s colonial settler project has been initiated  in Jammu.” She added: This will bear the first blow to Dogra culture, identity, employment, and business.”

She had also included  Deputy Commissioner’s order in her tweet. The order read that  as the  “ special summary  revision, 2022 has been started in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir from September 15, 2022, for registration of new voters, deletion, correction, transposition of voters who have migrated, died since last summary revision.”

“As per the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India, water /electricity/gas connection for one year, Aadhar card, current passbook of nationalized/scheduled bank/post office, Indian passport, revenue documents land owning records including Kisan Bahi, registration rent/lease deed (in case of tenant) and registered sale deed in case of own house,”

Quoting the guidelines laid down by the Election Commission of India, Deputy Commissioners said that these guidelines further “provide that in case none of the mentioned documents is available, field verification is required. For example, categories like homeless Indian citizens who are otherwise eligible to become electros but do not possess any documentary proof or ordinary residence, electoral registration officers shall designate any officer for field verification.”

This order was read by the non-BJP political parties that it was a primer for the bigger plan to undermine the role of J&K’s original residents in the elections and consequently to change the complexion of the  legislature and that of lawmakers. National Conference of Farooq Abdullah called for struggle to defeat BJP’s designs”, so did Congress.  The Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference asked the Government to come clean on this. All these angry expressions showed that the political groups which had represented a majority in the last legislative Assembly had turned against the move. In fact, Farooq Abdullah who had chaired two all-party meetings, one each in Srinagar, and Jammu, in  August and September, has constituted an 11-member panel to chalk out a strategy to make people aware of the “ dangers of the Government’s move to add non-locals into the electoral list,” as also to devise a strategy to “ defeat this plot against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Now their suspicions have grown and they are quite fearful that under the law of “ordinarily residing citizens” being eligible to cast votes, BJP wanted to broaden its electoral base, as by any logic this term only helps what they call outsiders because the original residents of J&K  had been living here for years together, and the children born a year before cannot attain the age of 18 to get registered as voters.

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