Jammu and Kashmir: Local parties still edgy about alleged enrollment of “non-locals” despite clarification by UT administration

CEO says numbers have shot up due to new enrollment of eligible voters who are turning 18

kashmirIImage courtesy: PTI/S. Irfan

Following severe backlash for an alleged inclusion of “non-locals” in the revised voters list for Jammu and Kashmir, the Union Territory’s administration has issued a statement clarifying the reason behind a huge spike in the number of voters.

The Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Government of J&K, has issued a formal clarification, saying, “There have been media reports that more than 25 lakh additions will be there in the electoral rolls once the process of electoral roll revision starts. This is a misrepresentation of facts, which is being spread by vested interests.” The statement attributed an increase in the number of voters to an inclusion of those who have attained or will attain the age of 18 years by October 1, 2022.

The statement also clarified, “There will be no change in the special provisions for Kashmiri migrants for their enrollment in the electoral rolls of their original native constituencies. They will continue to be given option of voting at their place of enrollment or through postal ballot or through specially set up polling stations at Jammu, Udhampur, Delhi etc.”



Trouble began last Wednesday when Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Hirdesh Kumar told mediapersons that lakhs of new names had been added to electoral rolls. NDTV quoted him as saying, “We are expecting an addition of 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list.” He explained, “We are expecting massive changes in the voter list given that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 over the past three years.”

But he also went on to say something that was allegedly misconstrued by many as the UT permitting “non-locals” to vote.

Kumar reportedly said, “After Article 370 abrogation, many people who were not enlisted as voters in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir are now eligible to vote. Also, anyone who is living ordinarily can avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K under the provisions of The Representation of the People Act.” He added, “An employee, a student, a labourer or anyone from outside who is living ordinarily in J-K, can enlist his or her name in the voting list. The documents will be scrutinised by government officials concerned who will take a decision after being satisfied with the claim.”

This sparked a controversy. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of gerrymandering (using the recent delimitation exercise), and allowing “non locals” to vote to allegedly “influence election results.”



Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) too criticized the move:



It is noteworthy that when J&K was a state, Jammu had 37 Assembly Constituencies, Kashmir had 46 and Ladakh had four – taking the state total to 87. After the abrogation of Article 370, Ladakh became a separate union territory (UT) as did J&K. After delimitation, total ACs in J&K stand at 90 – 43 in Jammu and 47 in Kashmir division. The recommendations came into effect on May 20, 2022.

After delimitation, some critics claim that the seat allocation is disproportionately in favour of the Jammu region. As this extremely informative video by Newslaundry explains, before delimitation, Jammu had 44-5 percent of the seats and had also nearly 43.8 percent of the voting population, and Kashmir had 55 percent seats with 56 percent of the population. After delimitation, Jammu has cornered approximately 48 percent of ACs, while Kashmir’s chunk has been cut to roughly 52 percent.

As the 2021 Census had to be suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the recommendations were made based on 2011 Census figures. Now, it is well known, that Jammu has a predominantly Hindu population, while Kashmir is predominantly Muslim. This has given rise to concerns about communally polarising vote bank politics.

This coupled with the new alleged ploy to enable “non-locals” to vote has set the cat among the pigeons in the UT. Even the clarification issued by the administration has failed to allay the fears of local parties. NC Chief Dr. Farooq Abdullah, today joined Mufti and other leaders from Kashmir at an all-party meeting on the subject.





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