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9 political parties vow to challenge any move to include ‘non-locals’ in J&K’s electoral rolls

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‘Will reach out to national parties with issues facing J&K’

Srinagar: The decision to include “non-locals” in electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable and will be contested by all means including court, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said on Monday after a meeting of nine parties here over the issue.

Abdullah said they were united against the move to extend the voting right to “outsiders” as it would rob Jammu and Kashmir of its identity.

“The state’s identity is about to end. The Dogra, Kashmiri, Pahari or Gujjar or Sikh, who reside here, will lose their identity. The assembly will be in the hands of the outsiders… We all oppose it and are not ready to accept it,” he told reporters.

The meeting, called by Abdullah, was attended by leaders of the Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Awami National Conference (ANC), Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), JDU and the Akali Dal Mann.  However, Sajad Gani Lone-led People’s Conference and Altaf Bukhar’s Apni Party stayed away.

Abdullah had convened the meeting after the NC and other parties objected to the remarks of the Union Territory’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Hirdesh Kumar that there will be around 25 lakh additional voters and 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.

The government on Saturday issued a clarification, saying the reports of a likely addition of over 25 lakh voters after the summary revision of electoral rolls is a “misrepresentation of facts by vested interests” and the increase in numbers will be of voters who have attained the age of 18 years as of October 01, 2022, or earlier.

Dissatisfied with the clarification, the NC and other parties claimed the administration has not addressed their main concern on whether ”outsiders” ordinarily residing in J&K will be allowed to enroll as voters.

Asked about their strategy, Abdullah said there were a lot of things that could be done including approaching the court.

“One is to make people aware, that is our job first. Secondly, there are avenues like we can go to court also. We are thinking about that aspect also,” he said.

CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami said the parties were clear that what the CEO said in the press conference and the clarification of the Information Department is “unacceptable to all of us”.

“We will explore the possibilities of seeking justice from the highest court of the country,” he said.

Abdullah said the meeting was necessitated because of the situation arising after the Election Commission opened the voting rights to all and they will hold a similar meeting in Jammu.

The NC president claimed he had requested Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to call an all-party meeting but there has been no response so far.

“I called the LG five days back, requested him to invite all leaders like he had when the Amarnath Yatra was about to start… He had promised us before that they will invite us regularly… but, there has been no response so far,” he told reporters at his residence.

Abdullah said they have also decided to invite leaders from national parties in September.

“We will decide where to have that meeting – whether in Jammu or Kashmir. We will invite them and place all the issues of this state before them,” the NC president said.

To a question about the government’s clarification that the move was necessitated because of the implementation of the Representation of the People Act, the former chief minister said why was the UT “singled out”.

“What about Sikkim? Is it in Sikkim? Why one state? Why has our state been chosen? Why? There must be some motive behind it?” he said.

On parties like Shiv Sena joining hands with regional parties in J&K, Abdullah said, “We have differences, every party has differences with the others, but we are together on this issue because everyone feels that the assembly will not be ours tomorrow, but of outsiders’. That is our fear.”

Asked about the People’s Conference and the Apni Party abstaining from the meeting, Abdullah said it was his duty to invite all the parties.

“Whether someone comes or not, it is their will… it is their issue. Farooq Abdullah cannot hand them a Tiranga. They can do whatever they want,” he added.

The NC president said the meeting condemned the killings taking place “whether of Kashmiri Pandits, labourers, Kashmiri Muslims or policemen or security forces’ personnel”.

“We condemned it in strong terms. We have requested that this law (voting rights) will become a root of trouble because they (the government) cannot provide protection to every labourer when they do not provide protection to every political party.

“We have these apprehensions as well that they (labourers) will be targeted. They (government) should have thought about these issues well, but they did not,” he said. (With PTI inputs)

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