Byelections: Pandits want govt to the cumbersome process of filling the M-Form -
Byelections: Pandits want govt to the cumbersome process of filling the M-Form
Posted 17 Mar 2017 03:26 PM


As the battle lines have been drawn for the bypolls to the Anantnag and Srinagar parliamentary seats in Kashmir, political parties and displaced Pandits want end to the cumbersome process of filling the M-Form, mandatory before community members are allowed to exercise their franchise.
With more than 72,235 migrant voters in both politically prestigious constituencies, their votes could prove crucial in the upcoming bypolls in April. If the procedure is simplified, it will allow more migrant Pandits to participate in the elections.

A majority of the community members are living away from their home constituencies in camps in Jammu since the exodus of 3.50 lakh Hindus in the 1990s following threat from terror groups. Since 1996, the Election Commission has been establishing special polling stations for the Pandits in Jammu, New Delhi and Udhampur during each election.

As per the data, there are 92,103 migrant electors in the Kashmir valley. The Srinagar parliamentary constituency, which consists of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam segments, has a total of 38,278 Pandit voters. The Anantnag seat, comprised of volatile south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam, has 33,957 Pandit electors.

Ahead of every election, each migrant Pandit family has to file an M-Form (migrant form), listing their present address and other details. The forms are submitted to the Relief Organisation, which processes them before giving them to the Election Commission. After this, the electoral rolls are finalised.

However, due to lack of coordination between the Relief Organisation and Election Commission officials during the parliamentary and Assembly elections in 2014, some voters, who had filled mandatory M-Forms, were turned back from the polling booths as their names were missing. In some cases, names were deleted from the electoral rolls, leading to protests by people at the Muthi, Purkhoo, Jagti and Nagrota camp townships.

Pandits are demanding that the process be simplified. They say that the special ration cards provided to the displaced Hindus by the Relief Organisation should be taken as identity proof and those duly enrolled by the Election Commission should be able to cast their vote directly.

“During the past elections, thousands of people could not vote because M-Forms were not processed on time. We have approached the Relief Organisation and the Election Commission on a number of occasions and asked them to ease the process as filling of special forms creates unnecessary problems,” said MK Yogi, president, National Conference (Minority Cell).

Political parties want a change in the procedure and also want that the postal ballots be dispatched on time so that community members, especially youth working in other parts of the country, are able to take part in the election process.

“Community members living in Jammu have been deprived of their democratic rights. Our party will support any initiative which allows their greater participation in the upcoming polls,” said Surinder Amberdar, BJP MLC.

In the past two decades, the number of Pandit electorates has dropped considerably. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, there were 1.47 lakh voters which dipped to 1.17 lakh in 2002. In the 2009 Assembly polls, their number went further down to 71,000.

“There are thousands of Pandits who are unable to vote because they have not been registered despite wanting to participate in the democratic process,” said RK Koul, senior leader (Minority cell), Peoples Democratic Party.

Under the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957, there is already a special provision in Section 36-A which provides that people can vote in the polling stations outside the territorial limits of their constituency.

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