The protesters demanded that the voting procedure for them should be simplified to ensure their full participation in the democratic process. They also asked for the issuance of voter ID cards for them.
An agitated protestor, Kulwinder Sharma said, “Despite the assurance of Chief Election Commissioner in this regard, nothing has been done so far. We have to fill in migrant forms—M-forms—in our own country. It is extremely painful. We are not migrants but refugees in our own country. We are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) under the United Nations guidelines,” Sharma added.
Another protestor said, “We fail to understand why this M-form system is there when photo identity cards could be made for the exiled Pandit voters. The M-form system should be removed.”
Raising his voice against the system, Aditya Kaul said, “It seems the state ensures that over a lakh Pandits living in towns other than Delhi and Jammu don’t get to vote. While others get a day off to vote, we are expected to take leave and fly to Delhi or Jammu to exercise our franchise.”
“At a time when registering as a voter is a mere mouse-click away, the Election Commission has made a very difficult procedure for us. We too are Indians so why we should face such discrimination?” said an angry Ranish Hangloo, a youth activist in the group.
Sanjay Peshin, chief coordinator of Roots in Kashmir said, “To escape persecution, more than 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their homes in the valley. Even after 19 years of exodus, more than 50,000 of these refugees are living in ‘animal-like state’ in camps. We are denied of our basic rights.” THE HINDU
Kashmiri Pandits protest against “discrimination” in voting procedures
“It is an attempt to erase us so that we can no longer claim to be Kashmiris”
NEW DELHI: To protest against the “discrimination” faced by them at the hands of the government and the authorities in voting procedures, a global youth initiative of the Kashmiri Pandits called “Roots in Kashmir” organised a protest at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday.
Along with Roots in Kashmir, members of Panun Kashmir, All-India Kashmiri Samaj, Kashmiri Sewak Samaj and Internally Displaced Kashmiri Pandit Youth Front also participated in the protest wearing black bands across their face.
The protesters demanded that voting procedure for the migrants be simplified to ensure their 100 per cent participation in the democratic process.
According to Roots in Kashmir, the number of members of the Pandit community in the voter list of Jammu and Kashmir had dropped considerably in the past two decades. “While the year 1996 saw 1.47 lakh of them, in 2002 their number slipped to 1.17 lakh and further down to 0.71 lakh during the Assembly polls held in the State last year,” added Aditya Raj Kaul of Roots in Kashmir.
A youth activist in the protest group, Ranish Hangloo, said: “At a time when registering as a voter is a mere mouse click away, the Election Commission in connivance with the State is making the registration process more tedious for us to ensure that we are denied even a basic human right.”
Criticising the voting procedures for Kashmiri migrants, Chief Coordinator of Roots in Kashmir Sanjay Peshin said: “With polling facilities in only two cities in India, the State ensures that over a lakh Pandits living in cities other than Delhi and Jammu do not get to vote.”
“It is but a part of the larger process to erase us not just from geographical horizon of Kashmir but from mind-spaces, voter lists and ration cards so that one day we can no longer claim to be Kashmiris,” he added.