The authorities in Jammu on Wednesday directed revenue officials to issue residence certificate to those living in the district for more than a year to register them as voters during the revision of electoral rolls, ANI reported.

Avny Lavasa, the district poll officer and deputy commissioner of Jammu, said that voters are facing difficulties to register themselves as many of them do not have proof of residence prescribed by the Election Commission such as Aadhaar card, passport and bank passbook.

The revision of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir is significant as the exercise is being carried out for the first time since the abrogation of its special status.

Until August 2019, when the status was revoked, voting rights were restricted to those defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir. Political parties in Kashmir have alleged that the revision of electoral rolls is an attempt to influence the upcoming Assembly elections, likely to be held next year.

In the order issued on Tuesday, Lavasa said that the revision is meant for registration of new voters, deletion, correction, transposition of those who have migrated or died since the last such exercise was carried out.

She authorised revenue officials to issue certificate of residence after conducting necessary verification.

“As for example, categories like homeless Indian citizens who are otherwise eligible to become electors but do not possess any documentary proof of ordinary residence, electoral registration officers shall designate an officer for field verification,” the order stated.

In August, an uproar had erupted after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar said that that the Union Territory could get 25 lakh more voters. That included those originally from outside Jammu and Kashmir, such as migrant workers and security forces, but living in the region.

All those not enlisted as voters earlier are now eligible to vote after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, he had said. Kumar had also said that the provisions of the Representation of the People Act the law that deals with the conduct of elections in India also applies to the region.

The National Conference criticised Tuesday’s order saying that it continues to oppose this move. “BJP is scared of the elections and knows it will lose badly,” the party tweeted. “People of J&K must defeat these conspiracies at the ballot box.”

National Conference President Farooq Abdullah had in August raised concerns that the demography of the region could be changed by giving voting rights to people from outside Jammu and Kashmir.

“The identity of a Dogra, Kashmiri, Pahari or Gujjar or a Sikh, everyone who resides here, will be wiped out in this manner,” he had said at an all-party meeting.

On Wednesday, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called the latest decision a first step toward Centre’s “colonial settler project” in the region.

Mufti also accused the BJP of creating religious and regional divisions between Jammu and Kashmir and urged the Dogras and the Kashmiris to thwart such attempts.

Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also criticised the move saying that those not from the region should not cast their vote in Jammu, reported ANI.

“They can vote in their states in a sealed envelope, as per system,” Azad told ANI. “Importance of voting in Jammu and Kashmir has been that only locals vote, be it Jammu or Kashmir.”