4,000 militancy-displaced persons from erstwhile Doda left out of polls

Were unable to vote yet again; have been demanding special booths

Sumit Hakhoo

Tribune News Service

Jammu, April 19

Although the Kathua-Udhampur-Doda parliamentary constituency witnessed a huge turnout of 70.2 per cent in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections, over 4,000 militancy-displaced people from erstwhile Doda district were yet again denied their democratic right.

Putting up at the Talwara camp in Reasi district, which was set up by the administration in the late 1990s, hundreds of families from mountainous areas of Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah were left out of the poll process.

Most of the people had migrated from remote hamlets between 1996 and 2004 after terrorists carried out a series of killings of minorities. The displaced people have been unable to exercise their democratic right in any of the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state as they live outside their constituency. They live in squalid camps housing both Hindus and Muslims and have been demanding special polling stations for them on the pattern of migrant Kashmiri Pandits.

“The Election Commission of India says each vote counts and no one should be left behind but more than 4,000 militancy-displaced people have continuously been deprived of their democratic right to exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections,” said Prof Bhim Singh, chairman, J&K National Panthers Party.

Bhim Singh is also the executive chairman of the State Legal Aid Committee, which fought a case in the Supreme Court seeking benefits for Jammu migrants on a par with displaced persons of the Valley.

Migrants claim that ahead of the election, they were promised that either a polling station would be established for them at the camp or they will be provided transport to visit their native villages to cast their vote. They said a few days ago, they were told that no such facility was possible.

“Most of the people had to leave their villages due to the threat from terrorists. The ECI should have helped us. We cannot go back to our native villages as terrorist activity has again picked up and the administration and the J&K Chief Electoral Officer know it,” said Balwan Singh, chairman, Migrant Action Committee, Talwara.

No official from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer or the district administration was available for comment.

Migrants couldn’t vote

  • Putting up at the Talwara camp in Reasi district, which was set up by the administration in the late 1990s, hundreds of families from mountainous areas of Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah were left out of the poll process on Thursday
  • The displaced people have been unable to exercise their democratic right in any of the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state as they live outside their constituency
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