Today: Jun 20, 2024

Name not in voters’ list, claim non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits

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Mattan:  Many non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits expressed anguish on Saturday, claiming that their names were not in the voters’ list, and termed it an “unfortunate” incident with a group that remained in the Kashmir region despite the turbulent militancy-period of the 1990s.

The matter pertained to a polling station set up at the Government Higher Secondary School here in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency that went to polls in the sixth round of the seven-phase general elections today.

No comment was immediately available from poll officials on the claims made by members of the small community that lives in a cluster in Anantnag district.

“I was denied my right to vote as my name was not in the list,” said Sarlaji Tickoo, a retired government employee and a member of the group that did not migrate in the 1990s to Jammu and other places of the country like thousands of Kashmiri Pandits.

People said they have been born and brought up in Kashmir (Anantnag) and have their Aadhaar and election cards but still were “not allowed” to cast their votes at the polling station.

Tickoo and many others said they contacted the Anantnag deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer over the issue of missing names from the voters’ list. Assurance was given that the matter would be resolved but “nothing was done”, they said.

“I am a native of Mattan and have been born and brought up here. We did not leave our home. I have a voter slip and an election card, and I have cast my vote before. But it is unfortunate that today I am not able to exercise my right. I am sad,” Tickoo said.

She said in a democratic country, everybody has the right to vote. “We are citizens of this country”.

“We spoke to the deputy commissioner and he assured us that he will address our issue but nothing happened. Like me, there are many people who were not allowed to cast their vote today,” she said.

Deepak Kumar said there are six members in his family but only one was able to cast his vote.

“It’s clear what is happening with us. I am a resident of Mattan. I have my ration card and all other proofs. We have faced many hardships to survive here. If this is the case, then the government should tell us clearly so that we can migrate to some other place,” Deepak Kumar said, displaying his voter identity card at the polling centre.

Vinod Kumar, whose name was also missing from the voters’ list, said, “I have cast my vote earlier but today we were not allowed to. I don’t know the reason but we were clearly told by officials that we cannot cast our vote here.”

He said his father has been into politics. “We have been politically active. But it is sad that we cannot give our vote,” Vinod Kumar said.

“We also want a representative of our own who can become our voice in Parliament but when we are deprived of our basic right, what can we expect? Kashmir is my birth land. Where else will I go? I spoke to ARO (assistant returning officer) but he said he cannot do anything,” he said.

Prominent Kashmiri Pandit leader Ravinder Pandita also expressed surprise over exclusion of names of members of his community from the voters list.

“…Though there was an exercise to include us in the Kashmir voter list last year, I got only one member out of five. What is the methodology? Disappointed,” Pandita wrote on X.

He urged the Election Commission and the J&K Chief Electoral Officer to revise the electoral lists for the forthcoming assembly elections in the Union Territory.

“Our vote matters in (Kashmir) Valley. We cannot be kept away from exercising our franchise for the motherland,” he said.

Nearly 40% migrant KPs turn out to vote

Nearly 40 percent of migrant Kashmiri Pandits cast their ballots in the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency during the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Saturday.

This represents a significant increase in voter turnout compared to the 2019, 2014, and 2009 elections.

The completion of voting in Anantnag-Rajouri marks the end of the electoral process in the Union Territory, with polling already concluded in its four other constituencies.

“Nearly 40 percent polling was registered by Kashmiri migrants for the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency,” Relief Commissioner Arvind Karwani said.

He said that out of the 27,000 eligible voters in the community, around 40 percent exercised their franchise. In terms of figures, more than 10,000 votes were cast.

Polling commenced at 7 am across 34 special polling stations set up for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu, Udhampur, and Delhi. Thirty-four polling stations were established for migrants, including 21 in Jammu, four in Delhi, one in Udhampur, and eight auxiliary stations.

The process was conducted peacefully, Karwani, who supervised the polling process by undertaking visits to various polling stations, said.

Despite a heatwave pushing temperatures to 42 degrees Celsius, many Kashmiri Pandits turned out to vote early in the day, showing strong support for the creation of townships for their return and rehabilitation.

Independent candidate Dilip Pandita staged a brief protest at a polling station in Jagti township, alleging that BJP leaders at polling stations were directing people to vote for a candidate with the election symbol bat.

“Please remove them from here. What business do they have here? They are telling people to vote on the bat symbol,” Pandita protested. He even blocked the vehicle of former BJP legislator and Jammu and Kashmir BJP vice-president G L Raina, who had visited the booth.