Strange, but true. The Election Commission on one hand has involved a number of celebrities and NGOs to persuade voters to participate in the festival of democracy (remember pappu doesn’t vote ha ha ads), on the other hand the same Commission is denying the right to franchisee to the lakhs of voters of Kashmir, displaced from the land of their ancestors. Nation was witness to unusual protests by the displaced community of Kashmiri Hindus asking to be enrolled as voters. J&K Police lathi charged one such protest sit-in at Muthi, Jammu and arrested several youngsters for daring to ask for the right to vote.
The so called democratic government in J&K, from the very beginning, has in fact been the government of the Muslim majority of Kashmir Valley. The neo-elite that emerged after the State’s accession to India in 1947 have ensured—thanks to biased patrionage of Pt. Nehru—that democracy is tailored to suit the Valley Muslims and is helpful in ensuring their hold on the State apparatus. Deletion of minority Hindu votes from electoral rolls is a part of that scheme.
Records show that in the 1996 Assembly elections, out of 147,000 registered displaced voters, 97,000 voted, whereas in 2002 the number came down to 117,000 There are nearly 76 to 77 thousand Kashmiri Pandit voters registered with the Sate Election Department but out of them hardly 11,000 voted in the recently concluded Assembly elections. This was because of the cumbersome procedure of filling up the M-form. A displaced voter has to make 3-4 visits to electoral office before he is allowed to vote. And this exercise has to be repeated every time when there is an election. This futile exercise is not only cumbersome but has tremendous scope for manipulation by the authorities.
Around 40,000 voters for example applied for voting right by essentially filling up the dreaded M-form the during election to the State Legislature. But authorities released the names of only 26,000 voters terming them eligible for voting. 11,000 voted. Another humiliating aspect is that a voter after filling the despicable M-form does not know whether his/her application has been time-honoured or not. Voter has to come to the polling booth on voting day to see if his/her name figures or not. In other words the voter is completely dependent on the mercy of the officials.
Displaced community has a reason to believe that the entire process is organised under a planned conspiracy. It is not difficult to understand the fact that presence of Hindu voters drastically reduces the blackmailing potential of Kashmiri Muslim politicians. Separatists fear rigid enforcement of boycott call will lead to a situation whereby India can constitutionally plug the loopholes in State’s relationship with the Centre. The so-called mainstream politicians realise that they will not be able to bargain hard for their share on the plea of containing separatists. Hence, only 10 per cent of the eligible voters have been enumerated in voter’s lists while the 90 per cent of them have been denied voting rights.
Representation of community, the single largest minority of Kashmir Valley, in the State Legislature has constantly dwindled from 4 in 1956 to zero, yes I repeat none in 2008.
People of India have to appreciate that the issue raised is not a simple one. It is also not a narrow, selfish and constricted matter. It has wider implications and concerns the larger struggle going on across the globe. The issue therefore is as important for all those who believe in egalitarianism, pluralism, secularism and democratic setup. Denial of right to vote in secular democratic India shall be taken as a part of the treacherous policy of the jihadi mind-set engaged in advancing the frontiers of their “civilisational war”. And any resistance against them is the cause of every Indian.
If you still have some doubts consider following. Revision of electoral undertaken between November-December 2008 Assembly elections and April 2009 Parliamentary polls, the total number of electorates across the State has crossed 65 lakh figure and stood at 65,58,957. Number of voters in the State during 2008 Assembly polls was 64.96 lakh.
You may ask what is unusual about that. Hold on. According to official figures released by the State Election Department, the number of voters across Kashmir region has gone up from 32.60 lakh to 33.21 lakh. However, the position is reverse in Jammu region where the voters have come down from 30.84 lakh to 30.83 lakh. The decrease is despite the fact that about 35,000 West Pakistan refugees are entitled to vote in Lok Sabha polls but their names are deleted during Assembly elections.
I must hasten to add that rubbing this issue under carpet by branding it as yet another gambit of BJP-RSS will be suicidal for not only secular fundamentalists but also for the religious Muslims. Believing Muslims will have to decide which brand of Islam do they accept as true Islam? Is it the Islam enforced by Talibanis in Af-Pak or the Islam propagated by Sufis and Fakirs.
Casualness demonstrated till now by the local civil society with respect to the problems faced by the displaced Hindu community of Kashmir will prove fatal. Media also has a lot to introspect. Mere reporting of news will certainly not suffice. Question that needs to be asked and analysed is how long institutions will fail the displaced community. Situation in Pakistan is an eye opener. Uncaring silence will haunt all those who avoid confronting the truth at present.
Just for the sake of information let me write that the displaced community has been forced to come out on streets. It was only after all other options ran out of steam that community decided to fight it out in open. The community has been approaching Election Commission constantly from 1996 onwards, the year elections were first held in the State after the forced displacement. Election Commission even after agreeing to their concerns and promising to reform the process has practically done nothing to that effect.
Their community is a resource poor community. They don’t have representatives in elected fora. Political parties find their issue as burden since they don’t fetch votes in the same measure as is the case with issues related to other communities. National interest is best confined to books and discussions in market driven TV studios.
Elimination of Hindu minority physically from the territory and erasing them completely out of the civilisational memory and ethos of Kashmir is the beginning of a larger scheme.
Shivalai ab jo rotey hai
Himalay kab ke roaiey hai
Community, as a result of persistent efforts by the team led by Dr. KN Pandita, has not only succeeded in registering the subject with the concerned authorities but in the process has actually realised the importance of registered voters in the electoral rolls of the place of their origin. And that is the first critical step towards achieving the desired objective.
Not long ago the scene was totally different. It was very difficult to talk about participation in the democratic process. Any person daring to do so was ridiculed. The method was blemished as surrender of community interests. Only courageous few continued to impress upon the community members to understand the long term folly of ignoring democratic setup of the country. It is welcome to see the changed response of the community, both from the point of view of the individuals as well as organisations.
But let us understand the real challenge lies in future. There is no doubt about the fact that Election Commission will arrange their enrollment sooner than they think. Will that solve the problem?
Difficulty is that the Commission will register only those who ask for the same. Registration will require certain steps on their behalf. EC will have to step in later. So how many of them are willing to register and how many will actually take the required trouble?
Dr KN Pandita Chairman JKNM, “has appealed to all the parties, organisations, nationalists and civil society to support the displaced community in its struggle for their constitutional rights. It also urged the Kashmiri Pandits to support the struggle launched by JKNM.”
How can we support JKNM? Are we actually helping JKNM or our own selves?
The best way I comprehend to do so is enrolling as many voters as are eligible. Let no one remain unregistered. Just have a look on the voter’s lines in polling booths of Kashmir. Children of 13-14 years age are casting votes. Their faces are clear indicators of their age. Yet they are registered as voters. It is one of the ways in which Kashmiri Muslims have ensured that number of voters in Valley to get pushed ahead of Jammu region.
Following revision undertaken between November-December 2008 Assembly elections and April 2009 Parliamentary polls, it must be remembered, the total number of electorates across the State has crossed 65 lakh figure and stood at 65,58,957. Number of voters in the State during 2008 Assembly polls was 64.96 lakh.
The number moved up from 32.60 lakh voters in Kashmir region, to 33.21 lakh. However, in Jammu region the number of voters came down from 30.84 lakh in Assembly elections to 30.83 lakh. The decrease is despite the fact that about 35,000 West Pakistan refugees are entitled to vote in Lok Sabha polls but their names are deleted during Assembly elections.
Vitality of the issue is noticeable. Democracy and the institutions of democratic polity have become weaponry to achieve the monolithic objectives of Islamic forces. We have somehow ignored their importance in a mistaken belief of the justness of our cause. The change, therefore, is refreshing.
So let us be prepared to do some ground work. Let us in first step ensure registration of our own families. Subsequently resolve to persuade one family a month to re-register their names in Kashmir voter list.
By 2011, the year most analysts believe to witness another general election, let there be 3 lakh KP voters in Kashmir Valley constituencies. I am taking conservative estimates of only 50 per cent of 7 lakh population we believe we are.
The ratio of voters to population in our State is more than 65%. The 50 per cent target is achievable. Registration is going to be a continuous process.
Let all of us try our best to achieve the goal.