Voting rights to non-locals totally unacceptable: Farooq Abdullah

Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD)

SRINAGAR — National Conference chief Dr Farooq Abdullah on Monday said that the leaders who participated in the All Party Meet (APM) at his Gupkar residence unanimously decided to oppose the recent announcement of the Election Commission about giving voting rights to non-J&K residents. Senior Abdullah said the decision of voting rights to outsiders was “totally unacceptable and if needed, we can approach the court to oppose the move.”

Addressing the media men after APM, Dr Farooq said that he had convened the meeting to discuss the fall-out of the recent announcement of EC about giving voting rights to non-J&K residents including labourers and security forces personnel. “The parties who participated in the meeting include NC, Congress, PDP, Awami National Conference (ANC), Shiv Sena, CPI(M), JDU and Akali Dal,” he said as per news agency KNO.

He said that at present the number of non-J&K residents who have been given voting rights is 25 lakh. “Tomorrow the number may go up to 50 lakh or 1 Crore. J&K’s identity is facing a direct assault as Dogra’s, Kashmiris, Sikhs and other communities are losing their identity,” said Dar Farooq, who was flanked by PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami, ANC leader Muzaffar Shah and newly elected J&K Congress president Vikar Rasool besides others.

The NC chief said that the fall-out of voting rights to non-J&K residents will be that tomorrow “Assembly will be in the hands of outsiders.”

Dr Farooq said that five days ago, he rang LG Manoj Sinha and requested him to convene an APM like one held on the issue of Amarnath Yatra. “I had requested LG to invite all parties, but there was no outcome,” he said, adding that last time, LG had stated that “he will be inviting J&K leaders frequently, but he failed to keep the word.”

Asked about future strategy, he said that today’s APM explored all options and if needed, “we can approach the court as well to oppose the EC’s decision of giving voting rights to non-J&K residents.”

“I wonder why J&K was chosen for this. There must be some motive,” he said. He said that in the month of September, he will invite leaders of national parties to Srinagar or Jammu, and brief them about the prevailing situation in J&K and the fresh moves of the Centre to change the identity of people belonging to various communities in J&K.

Pertinently, Apni Party and Peoples Conference stayed away from APM. Asked how long “he would fight for justice,” he said that fight will continue and if they fail, the next generation will fight. “But we will not accept defeat,” the NC patron said.

Dr Farooq also condemned the recent killings of Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims, policemen and security forces personnel.

Opposition sans logic to oppose ‘non-local’ voters as Mufti, Azad contested polls from other states: BJP

In an attempt to counter the All Party Meeting (APM) called by Gupkar Alliance over non-local voters row, BJP on Monday said that opposition parties san the logic to oppose ‘non-local’ voters as PDP founder Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Congress stalwart leader Gulam Nabi Azad themselves have contested polls from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra respectively in the past.

The opposition parties were invited by former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah werein leaders of the Congress, PDP, Awami National Conference (ANC), Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), JDU and the Akali Dal Mann participated.

The ruling BJP was not invited to the meeting. However, Sajjad Lone-led People’s Conference and Altaf Bukhar’s Apni Party stayed away.

As per news agency KNO, the meeting was called to lay a roadmap against Election Commission’s decision to include ‘ordinarily residents’ as voters in the ongoing Summary Revision for electoral rolls.

Countering the narrative, the BJP held a parallel meeting at its headquarters in Jammu to chalk out a “counter-strategy” against the meeting called by Abdullah in Srinagar.

Addressing media after the meeting, BJP president Ravinder Raina said PDP founder and former CM Mufti had 1989 contested elections in Muzaffar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh and later he took oath as Home Minister. Congress leader and former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad won the election from Maharashtra for their own benefits but when somebody who is residing here for many decades is getting rights, these parties are trying to vitiate the atmosphere.

“We are all residents of one nation and there is no discrimination against anyone. Law is the same for everyone and the Constitution of India has given the right to equality to everyone,” Raina said.

Raina added that the people of J&K are residing in Delhi, Maharashtra etc for many years, they have surrendered the vote in J&K and have got voting rights there. There was no propaganda there and no one called them outsiders in those places.

The BJP, meanwhile, accused the NC, PDP and other parties of spreading “misleading propaganda” to poison the minds of the people over the issue of “inclusion of non-local voters” in the revised electoral rolls in the Union Territory.

“There is no issue of ‘locals or non-locals’ as the Constitution gives all citizens the right to vote in the country after attaining the age of 18. The Representative of the People Act was implemented across the country in 1950 and was extended to J-K after the abrogation of Article 370 (in August 2019). The revision of electoral rolls is taking place in accordance with the Act,” the BJP leader said.

Raina maintained that the people of West Pakistani Refugee, Gorkha Samaj and Dalit community were denied their fundamental right to vote and their human rights were violated in Jammu and Kashmir for the past 70 years.

Ravinder Raina said that the Representation of Peoples Act 1950 was applicable all over India since 1950 and now it has become applicable to J&K as well after the abrogation of controversial Articles 370 and 35 (A). “Now with the application of this Act, everybody above the age of 18 who is residing in Jammu & Kashmir can participate in the election process, which is a Constitutional process. This is a deliberate malicious attempt of propaganda against the judicial process unleashed by NC, PDP, Congress along with certain other parties.”

Will go on hunger strike if electoral demography of J&K is changed: Sajad Lone

Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone on Monday said they will sit on hunger strike before the Parliament and other constitutional bodies if there is an attempt by the Government to change the electoral demography of Jammu & Kashmir.

Addressing a news conference here, Lone, as per the news agency KNO, said that they will sit on a hunger strike in front of the Parliament if the Government makes an attempt to change the demography of J&K. “The law (Representation of The Peoples Act-1951) is not a threat to us but the intentions of the Government are a threat to us,” he said.

Lone said they neither accept the clarification issued by the Jammu & Kashmir Government nor they reject it. “We will wait and watch and if there is an attempt to change the demography of J&K, we will go on hunger strike,” he said.

He said that he will not attend the all-party meeting called by Farooq Abdullah to discuss the issue of inclusion of non-locals into the electoral rolls of J&K, saying they will support it if anything concrete comes out of it. “I don’t want to be a point scorer. If something concrete comes out of it, we will support it. They should also support our programme,” he said.

Senior PC leader and former Law Secretary Muhammad Ashraf Mir said that the chief electoral officer’s assertions about the inclusion of non-locals in the electoral rolls of Jammu & Kashmir are not supported by law.

“The law is clear that the person must be a habitual resident of that place for a considerable time. The service voters (members of armed forces) can vote only for their native constituencies irrespective of their places of posting,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention that different political parties are meeting in Srinagar to discuss the issue of inclusion of non-locals in the electoral rolls of J&K. The meeting is being attended by NC, PDP, Congress and other parties.

Former deputy CM Muzaffar Hussain Baig had said that he will also attend APM if he is invited. But he has not been invited to attend the APM.

No demographic change made in J&K: Ashok Koul

J&K unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday said that no demographic change would be made by special summary revision of voters.

“Anyone living in Jammu and Kashmir for two, three or four years has the right to vote here. If leaders from Jammu and Kashmir can contest elections from outside J&K, why can’t those living here vote here,” BJP General Secretary (Organization), Ashok Koul said while talking to reporters as per the news agency KNO.

He said that the Chief Election Officer has not made any wrong statement and that what he said is the law. “Anyone who will be granted permission to vote here in J&K has to remove his name from the previous place,” he said.

He further said that there were no motives of demographic change behind the revision of the voter list.

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