25 lakh additional voters, including ‘non-locals’ to vote in Jammu and Kashmir; Mehbooba says ‘last nail in coffin of democracy’

Aug 19, 2022 | Demographic Engineering

Samaan Lateef | Tribune India 

National Conference calls for all-party meet on August 22 to discuss the issue

Allowing any Indian citizen residing in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to vote in the upcoming Assembly elections has received pushback from the local political parties, saying it would be “the last nail in the coffin of electoral democracy in J&K”.

National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah today invited leaders of all major political parties except the BJP for a meeting on Monday at his Srinagar residence. 

“Chief Electoral Officer issued a new diktat and with it, BJP’s 25 lakh voters, who are non-locals, will be included as voters of J&K. This is the last nail in the coffin of electoral democracy in J&K,” said former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

“If 25 lakh BJP voters will come from outside, what will remain the value of voters of Jammu and Kashmir? The J&K issue has gone beyond elections now. Time has come to resolve the Kashmir issue.” 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar on Wednesday said that a person would not need to hold a J&K domicile to be a voter in the UT and 20-25 lakh new voters are expected to be added to the electoral roll that is being prepared.

In August 2019, the Narendra Modi-led BJP Government scrapped Article 370 and its corollary Article 35-A which provided constitutional safety to jobs, land and citizenship of the local residents.

It was followed by granting a domicile certificate to every Indian citizen, who has been living in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years. Also, new land laws were enacted to make all Indian citizens eligible to purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir.

Prior to that, outsiders were not eligible to apply for citizenship or buy land.

The domicile certificates and voting rights have been given to hundreds of thousands of Valmikis and West Pakistan refugees, who have been living for decades in different parts of Jammu.

As per the 2011 Census report, Jammu and Kashmir has 2.8 non-local migrant workers and among them 14 lakh have already been living in the region for 10 years or longer. Around 12%, or 3.35 lakh, have been there for between five and nine years.

Since the 2011 Census is ten years old, which means both these categories of non-local migrants fulfil the 15-year rule prescribed for securing domicile certificates. It also means that 17.35 lakh people can certainly acquire domicile rights, which constituted roughly 14% of J&K’s 13 million population in 2011.

As per the 2011 Census, 66.9 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir’s 13 million population is Muslims, while Hindus constitute 30 per cent and Sikhs 2 per cent.

Locals fear a settlement of 2 million non-local population will alter the demographic composition of Jammu and Kashmir.

Also, Jammu and Kashmir has more than half a million Indian troops who are also eligible to vote.