Kashmiri Pandits Knock At EC's Door
17 April 2004
New Delhi: Panun Kashmir, a representative body of displaced Kashmiri Pandits, has asked the Election Commission what arrangements it had made to ensure that thousands of displaced Kashmiri Pandits who live in various cities across the nation, excluding Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi, exercise their franchise in the five-phase general elections beginning April 20. Though Panun Kashmir has lauded the Election Commission's efforts of making special arrangements for displaced Kashmiri Pandits living in Delhi, Jammu and Udhampur to cast their votes, the organisation has said that it does not safeguard the right to vote of over 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits who have been uprooted from their homes in Jammu and Kashmir and were living in other cities since 1990. Stating that it was Election Commission's constitutional duty to ensure that no Indian citizen was deprived from discharging his fundamental democratic responsibility, Panun Kashmir said displaced Kashmiri Pandits were victims of a deliberate plot to deprive them of their basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It further said the Election Commission had 'gravely erred in protecting the electoral rights of the exiled community.' The matter had been brought before the Commission previously also but failed to generate adequate response from it. 'The continued silence and inaction of the Election Commission on an important issue concerning the displaced Kashmiri Pandits' fundamental right of being recognised as the part of Indian electoral system is intriguing. The displaced Kashmiri Pandits have every right to demand answers to the questions raised above and trust the Commission to address the issue immediately.' It has also alleged that since 1990, thousands of displaced Kashmiri Pandits have become eligible to vote but have not been able to enrol themselves in the voters' lists due to the Election Commission's failure to create a mechanism of doing so. In this election also thousands of displaced Kashmiri Pandits would be deprived of their right to vote, it said, hoping that Election Commission would take an urgent initiative to safeguard their rights.