National Conference President Farooq Abdullah on Monday said that all the Opposition parties are against including non-locals as voters in Jammu and Kashmir, The Indian Express reported.
“We do not accept this,” Abdullah said after the all-party meet held at his residence. “We have differences but all parties present here have come together realising that tomorrow we could be left out of our Assembly.”
At the all-party meeting, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, among representatives of others political parties were present.
Abdullah said that they will “not give up the fight”.
“In September, we will invite leaders of national parties so we can discuss all matters of J&K with them,” Abdullah was quoted as saying in The Indian Express.
Abdullah also said that he had requested Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to call an all-party meeting to discuss developments on the electoral roll in Jammu and Kashmir.
“However, it was not considered,” he added.
Abdullah said that they are mulling moving the court now, the Hindustan Times reported.
Monday’s meeting was held after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar said that the Union Territory could get 25 lakh more voters. The figure includes those originally from outside Jammu and Kashmir, such as migrant workers and security forces, but live in the region.
On August 17, Kumar had said the move was due to the revision of electoral rolls undertaken for the first time after Jammu and Kashmir lost autonomy under Article 370.
The Centre scrapped statehood and special status under Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019. The erstwhile state was split into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Lakakh.
The Centre had also repealed Article 35A that ensured special rights and privileges to people defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, the region has been under the central government’s rule.
The chief electoral officer said that a domicile certificate was not necessary for enlisting as a voter in Jammu and Kashmir.
After the legislative changes of August 2019, the Centre had replaced the term “permanent residents” with “domiciles”, a broader bureaucratic category that included anyone who had lived in Jammu and Kashmir for a certain number of years. Ordinary residents is an even broader category of individuals.
“An employee, a student, a labourer or anyone from outside who is living ordinarily in Jammu and Kashmir, can enlist his or her name in the voting list,” Kumar said.
He also said that armed forces personnel from other states who are posted at peace stations in Jammu and Kashmir can get their names added to the voter list. The final voter list will be published by November 25, he said.
After Kumar’s announcement, the Directorate of Information and Public Relations issued a clarification that the 25 lakh-estimate includes first-time voters.
Regional political leaders have alleged that the electoral roll revision is part of a tactic by the Bharatiya Janata Party to influence election results.
On Monday, workers of the Peoples Democratic Party hit the streets over the inclusion of non-local voters in Jammu and Kashmir.
‘Will go on hunger strike,’ says Sajad Lone
Earlier in the day, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone said he will hold a hunger strike outside Parliament if non-locals are allowed to vote, PTI reported.
“We will wait till October 1 when the draft electoral rolls are published,” he said. “If there is any wrongdoing, if the electoral demography is sought to be changed, we will hit the streets, not only here but in front of all constitutional institutions of the country like Parliament. We will go on hunger strike. This battle cannot be fought here. We have to make people of India aware about what is happening.”
Lone skipped the all-party meeting convened by Abdullah on Monday. He had parted ways with the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, in January 2021. Farooq Abdullah is the president of the alliance.
“If anything concrete comes out of it [all-party meeting], will support it,” Lone said, The Hindu reported. “I don’t want to score points.”
On the clarification issued by the government, Lone said “we neither accept nor reject” it in totality, PTI reported.