The projected inclusion of 2.5 million new voters as a result of electoral rule changes in IIOJK has angered many people and raised suspicions that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is attempting to change the character of politics to its advantage. Members of the security and armed personnel stationed in the IIOJK, non-citizens, and the Hindu Kashmiri Pandit diaspora from India will all be included on the revised election rolls that will be announced in August 2022. Even if these groups are not physically present in IIOJK, they are nonetheless able to register as voters in their respective constituencies. The local legislature’s additional seats were created by a special commission that was established after India revoked IIOJK’s special constitutional status in 2019. This was followed by the modification of the electoral rolls.
The new election designs have drawn criticism from a number of local political groups. Given that IIOJK has a population of about 12.3 million, many people worry that an additional 2.5 million voters may sway the election in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP’s favour.
With the modifications to the electoral rules, the BJP hopes to tip the electoral scales in its favour. In particular, the BJP will rely on the votes of the armed forces, who are overrepresented in IIOJK compared to the native population. The desire to appeal to the right-wing nationalist voter base of the government in other parts of India may also be the driving force behind efforts to alter the composition of the local electorate.
The usurpation and exploitation of economic resources are other worries. Many government contracts have been given to non-Kashmiri companies, raising fears that privileged outsiders may corner the market and drive out local competitors. Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and vice president of the National Conference (NC), stated unequivocally that future elections in IIOJK will be fought for identity rather than for roads, electricity, or water, in spite of India’s illegal attempts to skew the electoral realities in its favour. He declared, “Our identity will be fought for in every election that is held. It must involve a significant number of people for the locals to have access to land, jobs, and other privileges. Omar Abdullah claimed that the promises made by the BJP following the repeal of Article 370 have turned out to be a farce and that after three years, the Indian government has failed to complete even the ongoing projects.
He questioned the logic for the Indian occupation government’s latest attempt to disenfranchise Kashmiris by assigning a distinctive ID to each family in IIOJK. He described it as yet another assault on people’s identities and noted that there is no such family ID scheme in India. He claimed that the government is attempting to ensure that IIOJK inhabitants are identified by numbers rather than names by issuing this ID.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah also criticised the Indian government’s violations of human rights in IIOJK and depriving the populace of their true representative leadership, rejecting the Indian government’s absurd claims of normalcy and quick economic development in IIOJK after the abrogation of articles 370 and 35A on 5th August 2019.
Since unjustly withdrawing the IIOJK’s special status in 2019 by repealing Article 370 of its Constitution, India has made vain attempts to spread the myth that the IIOJK has returned to normalcy. The security situation in the occupied region is deteriorating day by day as a result of the rigorous policy of the Indian administration, contrary to Indian propaganda. According to the BJP leadership under Modi, eliminating IIOJK’s special status will lead to growth and an end to violence in the forcibly occupied area. India’s attempt to project a sense of normalcy and progress has fallen flat because the situation in IIOJK is worse now than it was prior to the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A. India’s assertion that everything is normal in IIOJK serves only to distract the public from the serious human rights violations committed by Indian forces. India’s armed presence cannot alter the disputed status of IIOJK. As more than a million Indian troops continue to be stationed there, IIOJK has grown to be the most militarised region in the world. India has been blatantly violating pertinent UN Security Council decisions by attempting to alter the demographic composition of the occupied territory. IIOJK leadership and the general populace, however, have rejected India’s bogus assertions of normalcy and growth.
Note: This article appeared in Kashmir Watch, dated 09 January 2023.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.