April 2017 News

Thousands Of Pandits Deprived Of Voting Right

9 April 2017
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu: Thousands of displaced Kashmiri Hindus were today deprived of their right to vote in the Srinagar parliamentary byelection at special polling booths established in Jammu as their names were missing from the electoral roll. There were protests outside the polling stations at Muthi and Jagti camps after several people who had filled the mandatory M-Forms were not allowed to vote after polling staff told them they were ineligible. National Conference (NC) minority cell workers also held protest at Jagti, blaming the state government for deliberately denying the community of its democratic right. Though there are a total of 38,278 Pandit voters in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, only 2,192 were found eligible to vote after the processing of their M-Forms. Of these, 912 voters (41 per cent) exercised their franchise. Pandits alleged that they were deliberately denied the right to vote despite fulfilling every formality. 'I was not allowed to vote as the polling staff at the last moment told me that my name was not listed. We had filled the M-Form on time and it's quite sad that people have been denied their right. Several hundred families faced same problem,' said Basanti Koul, originally from Habbakadal in Srinagar, who now lives in Jagti. The Srinagar parliamentary constituency consists of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam segments. It has high number of voters belonging to the minority community but they have repeatedly failed to cast their votes in the successive Assembly and parliamentary elections. There have been allegations that the migrant voters refrain from registering themselves due to the cumbersome process which the community has to go through every time whenever elections are conducted, be it to the Lok Sabha or Assembly. Since 1989-90, when 3.50 lakh Hindus left the Valley due to the threat of militancy, their participation in the democratic process has decreased considerably. 'It appears that the authorities have decided to oust us from the electoral process under a well-planned scheme. A majority of the Pandits fill the forms before elections, but later they don't find their names in the final list,' said MK Yogi, NC (Minority cell) president. However, Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) Zaffar Banday refuted the Pandit voters' claims, saying no M-Form had been rejected if complete details had been filled. 'The procedure has been set by the Election Commission of India for the ease of Pandits as they live outside their constituencies. We make every effort to streamline the process,' Bandey said. Giving details, Bandey said 41 per cent of the registered Pandit voters exercised their franchise. 'About 912 people came to vote at special polling booths out of 2,192 migrant voters,' he said. Only 912 voted: 38,278 Pandit voters in the Srinagar constituency ; 2,192 found eligible to vote after the processing of their M-Forms ; 912 voters (41%) finally exercised their franchise; Under the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957, there is a special provision providing people to vote outside the territorial limits of their constituency.