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J&K Gujjars demand ‘Postal Voting Rights’ for nomadic, semi-nomadic tribes 

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Jammu, March 24: The Gujjars and Bakerwals which constitute largest migratory tribes of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday demanded that  Election Commission of India should grant ‘Postal Voting Rights’ to nomadic, semi-nomadic tribes,  if election  of JK state Assembly was going to held after 15th of April or before 15th October.

In a statement issued here, the migratory tribes organization said: “A large chunk of their population will be under seasonal migration during this periods. The commission should take cognizance of the matter while announcing the dates for assembly election in the state.

“In a meeting of members of tribal groups under the banner of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation – a frontal organisation today demanded that either the dates of state Assembly election may be fixed before 15th April or after 15th of October or grant special voting  rights/postal voting  rights to nomadic/tribal communities of Jammu and Kashmir,” reads the statement.

“As per centuries old practise the Gujjars/ Bakerwals along with minor tribal groups like Gaddis/ Sippis/ Changpa migrats  and stay in upper reaches of north-western Himalayas during 15th April to 15th October, every year,” the statement quoted Gujjar Scholar, Dr. Javaid Rahi, as saying.

Dr. Rahi, according to the statement, said the tribes constitute around 20 lakh people  which  figures  around 20% population of the state and a larger chunk of them are still migratory. “Under  the traditional bi-annual seasonal migration they move towards upper reaches of Himalaya in mid April along with their animals included sheep, goats, horses, buffalos, cows, camels and Dogs and live in upper  areas of Shivalik and Peerpanchal and Zojila mountains ranges. They start their back journey to down areas in first week of September,” he said.

“It takes around 45 days for each Tribal family reach back to their destination with their animals,” he added.

“The members of nomadic community further demanded that before announcing the election the Election Commission (EC) may notify migratory/nomadic tribes of Jammu and Kashmir to be eligible for Postal Voting in the state on the prototype of Kashmiri Pandit Voters,” the statement added.

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