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Jammu withdraws controversial order allowing residents of more than 1 year to become voters

Jammu withdraws controversial order allowing residents of more than 1 year to become voters

Srinagar: The Jammu region district magistrate has withdrawn a controversial order on voting rights for non-locals amid a political backlash and allegations of electoral list manipulation using "imported" voters.

The district magistrate on Tuesday asked field officials to register even those people as voters who have no documentary proof but have been living in the region for the last year.

Officials said the order was withdrawn last night.

The order has been withdrawn amid strong objections from regional parties.

Regional parties and leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad had opposed the move.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti accused the central government of implementing a "colonial settler project" in the Jammu region.

The district magistrate had allowed revenue officials to issue certificates of residence to those living in the Jammu region for more than a year as part of the voter enrolment process.

In the circular, Avny Lavasa, the district election officer, said some new eligible voters have been facing hardships in registering due to the non-availability of documents.

The Jammu and Kashmir electoral rolls revision will be completed by November 25.

The controversy over the inclusion of non-locals as voters started in August after the Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer said some 20-25 lakh new voters will be added during the revision of the electoral rolls, and that non-locals who are "ordinarily" living in Jammu and Kashmir would be enrolled as voters.

Before Jammu and Kashmir's special status under the Constitution was scrapped in August 2019, only permanent residents were eligible to vote. All laws defining permanent residents of the erstwhile state, barring outsiders from owning property, and voting rights in Jammu and Kashmir were removed in August 2019.

Before the revision of the electoral rolls started, a controversial delimitation exercise, whose genuineness is being questioned, redrew 90 assembly constituencies. There are allegations of gerrymandering and brazen discrepancies in allotting seats on considerations other than the population as the sole criteria.

The opposition alleges it was done to turn a demographic majority into a political minority to help a political party. The BJP has rejected the allegations.

Now, it's the inclusion of non-locals that has deepened fears, and questions are raised over the credibility of the entire process.

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