Kashmiri Pandits Demand Right To Vote

3 May 2009
The Indian Express

New Delhi: While the separatists in Kashmir keep trying to boycott the election process for it being ‘Indian’, New Delhi saw a strange dichotomy with Kashmiri Pandits organising a silent protest to demand for their right to vote. The number of electoral members of the community has dropped considerably from the voter list of J&K State for the past two decades. In 1996 there were 1.47 lakh voters and in 2002 it went down to 1.17 lakh and during last year’s assembly polls it went further down to 0.71 lakh. This is because the election process is weighed against them, they said, protesting against the Indian govt and the Election Commission. “At a time when registering as a voter is a mere click away, the Election Commission in connivance with the State is making the most tedious process for us so as to ensure that we don’t even get a basic human right” said Ranish Hangloo, a young activist. Kashmiri Pandits were forced out of Kashmir when militancy reached its peak in the early 1990s, they are now present in many cities of India but the voter booths for them to vote are present only in Jammu and Delhi. Protestors from different age groups were seen wearing black cloth on their mouth holding banners like ‘Election for you, Exile for us’. They demanded that the voting procedure be simplified and the M-form (migrant form) be done away with. ‘We are not migrants, migrants are people who move out of their own free will, while we were forced out’, said Aditya Raj Kaul, another activist.