Non-migrant Pandits to ‘legally’ boycott Kashmir electionsMay 1st, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by admin
By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, May 1 (IANS) An organisation of those Kashmiri Pandits who did not migrate from the valley despite turmoil has decided to boycott the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir due in October to protest lack of government help. Sanjay Tickoo, chairman of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti, told IANS: “We will launch a legal boycott of the elections to prove our viewpoint.”
He said the decision was aimed at registering the protest of non-migrant Pandits, the popular term for Kashmiri Hindus, whose plight according to the him is “pitiable”.
There are around 750 Pandit families comprising 4,000 members who are still living in different parts of Muslim-majority Kashmir valley despite the mass migration of their community from the valley in the 1990s.
“The government of India declared sops for those Pandits who chose to migrate out of the valley with the beginning of violence here in the 1990s. This in fact encouraged the migration, but those who decided to stay back have been left high and dry,” Tickoo said.
When asked how boycotting elections could be termed as “legal”, Tickoo said: “According to the constitution of the country, a person can exercise his right not to vote.
“A person can go to the polling booth, get his/her identity confirmed by the poll officials, get the indelible ink mark on the finger and then tell the presiding officer that he/she does not intend to vote.”
Elections to the state assembly are due in October this year. But dates for the polls are yet to be finalised.
Separatist outfits in the valley have been boycotting elections in the state and asking the people not to vote as they say polls under the Indian constitution are unacceptable to them. But Tickoo says the boycott by his organisation’s members will be “legal”.
He said whenever non-migrant Pandits called on ministers and senior state officials with their problems, they were just given verbal assurances and nothing beyond these.
“We are told we have done a commendable job by staying back in the valley despite violence, but when it comes to relief and rehabilitation, we have always been left out during the last 18 years of turmoil,” Tickoo said.
The Pandit organisation also criticised the central government for its recent package to migrant Pandits. Tickoo said “it would only help to divide the Kashmiri Pandit community”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to the state last week announced a rehabilitation package of Rs.750,000 for each migrant Pandit family that wished to return to the valley.
(F.Ahmed can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: assembly elections, government of india, indelible ink, indian constitution, ink mark, jammu, kashmir, kashmir valley, kashmiri hindus, kashmiri pandits, mass migration, muslim majority, plight, polling booth, presiding officer, sanjay, sops, srinagar, state assembly, state officials