Jammu and Kashmir leaders fear voter harassment

May 1st, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) The political parties in Jammu and Kashmir believe reports of terrorists acquiring electoral photo identity cards (EPICs) may instil fear of harassment from authorities in the minds of the voters. “The main purpose (of EPIC) is to make the polling process less cumbersome as in my state people come to vote after going through hardships because of terrain and security. In the last assembly and the municipal elections the voting percentage was very high,” People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti told IANS.

Media reports last week said that many terrorists in Kashmir had acquired EPICs through forgery and could scuttle the electoral process in the border state. Since these media reports, political parties like the PDP, which is part of the ruling coalition with the Congress, and the opposition National Conference and others have demanded that other photo identification be allowed for voting.

“The manner in which the Election Commission has allowed other documents like ration card, driving license or any such valid document for the assembly elections in Karnataka should be followed in Jammu and Kashmir too. There is not enough time for starting the EPIC exercise all over again,” Mehbooba Mufti said.

Jammu and Kashmir is due to go to polls in September this year.

Mufti conceded that there can be forgery in other photo identification documents as well, but said the parties would have to take chances.

“There are many ways in which forgery can be committed. Many Bangladeshi migrants had got ration cards in India. The Election Commission can take measures to ensure fair polls. It can put voters’ list on the website,” she said.

National Conference leaders, in their interaction with the press, said the party would take up the issue with the poll panel and demand permission for use of other identification.

They too fear their supporters may be harassed by security forces in the state during the polls and prevented from voting due to discrepancies in EPICs.

Election Commission sources here said the commission recognises up to 14 photo identifications in the absence of EPICs. “Any voter having any one of the 14 accepted identifications is permitted to vote,” an official said.

Since voters in most states of the country have not been issued EPICs, many states which went to polls recently have used this provision. The latest example is Karnataka, where three-phased polls will be held this month.

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