Addition of Non-Local Voters: India Accelerates Demographic Changes in Kashmir


By Sajjad Shaukat

India’s move to register almost 2.5 million new non-local voters in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) triggered outrage among the local Kashmiris and Muslims, as it will permit voting rights to any Indian citizen living temporarily in the (IIOJK). The decision will accelerate demographic changes there.

In this regard, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar told reporters on August 17, this year that more than 2 million new voters are expected to be enrolled in the region ahead of local polls due in November 2022. The new registrants could increase the voter count by more than a third, adding to the existing 7.6 million voters in the region.

Taking note of the Indian illegal act, in a statement issued on August 19, 2022, the Foreign Office spokesperson (FO) Asim Iftikhar said: “Pakistan categorically rejects the deliberate Indian attempts of pre-poll rigging and overt manipulation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir…permitting temporary residents to register as voters is a clear manifestation of the treacherous Indian design to influence the outcome of so-called elections in the territory.”

He further stated: “Pakistan reiterates its complete rejection of India’s entire litany of steps aimed at turning the Muslim majority into a minority, including the formulation of the so-called ‘Delimitation’ Commission and its baseless report, the issuance of fake Kashmiri domiciles to millions of outsiders, and changes in the property laws”, called on “the international community to take cognisance of its attempts at effecting illegal demographic changes in the [occupied Jammu and Kashmir] region.”

The FO added: “Despite all reprehensible measures that have followed the illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019, India will not be able to break the will of the Kashmiri people or to mislead the world community.”

Besides human rights organisations and NGOs, the main political parties of the IIOJK have sharply criticised the move as Kashmiris fear that the rule changes will allow the extremist Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the fanatic Prime Minister Narendra Modi to alter the demographics of the region.

The former chief minister of the Indian-controlled Kashmir and president of the Jammu and Kashmir (J and K or J&K) Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti remarked: “Allowing non-locals to vote is obviously to influence election results. The real aim is to continue ruling J&K with an iron fist to disempower locals.”

The former chief minister of the Jammu & Kashmir and chairman of the National Conference-leader of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration Dr. Farooq Abdullah tweeted: “Is the BJP so insecure about support from genuine voters of J&K that it needs to import temporary voters to win seats?” He also invited all parties to meet on August 22, this year to deal with illegal Indian move—the issue of inclusion of non-local voters in the electoral rolls.

In this connection, Germany’s TV channel DW pointed out on August 19, 2022: “Kashmiri political parties are concerned that the inclusion of 2.5 million new voters in the Muslim-majority region will permanently disenfranchise Kashmiris…is geared towards full and final dispossession of indigenous Kashmiris.”

In fact, Indian brutal actions against the Muslim Kashmiris reached a peak on August 5, 2019 when the Indian government led by the biased Indian Prime Minister Modi revoked articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to the disputed territory of the IIOJK. Indian regime bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to be ruled by the federal government.

Indian rulers have also issued over 1.8 million domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris to change the ethnic-demographic structure of the IIOJK.

In this respect, Kashmir Media Service (KMS) News Org on August 5, 2022 elaborated: “After the 5th August illegal and unilateral actions, India launched a lawfare against the people of Jammu and Kashmir, changing laws and imposing new colonial laws. Besides extending several federal laws, India introduced new domicile and land ownership laws to occupied Kashmir. Recently, the New Delhi-installed administration in IIOJK added a clause to the J&K Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules, 2020, allowing the spouse of a native woman married outside the territory to apply for a domicile certificate. The new legal framework provides the occupation authorities a full license to change the territory’s demography while converting the locals’ majority into a minority by opening the gate for an influx of non-Kashmiris. In gross violation of the UN resolutions and international law, the Modi government has granted domicile status to the majority of non-Kashmiri Hindus. Apprehensions are ripe that more than 800,000 Indian soldiers and over 600,000 migrant labourers present in the territory might also be granted domicile status in the coming days and months.”

It further wrote: “India has made another law authorising its army to declare any land in the occupied territory as strategic and take it into its possession. Also, as part of its anti-Muslim policies, BJP led Indian regime took several steps to do away with the symbols and manifestations, which portrayed the inherent distinctive character of Jammu and Kashmir. During the cordon and search operations, the people of IIOJK are dictated to chant slogans of the Hindu religion and those who do not comply are subjected to torture. The Indian government has unveiled a new media policy for IIOJK in the name of examining the content of print, electronic and other forms of media. As per new laws, the media can print and publish only that content, which is approved by the authorities.”

KMS added: “Indian government-run administration in IIOJK has started to arbitrarily sack Muslim employees from government departments for being sympathetic to the resistance movement…The Modi regime has initiated the process of delimitation of Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies in J&K with an aim to give more seats to Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu division. By doing this, the RSS-backed Indian regime wants to gain majority whenever so-called Assembly elections are held in the IIOJK and install its own chief minister in the occupied territory.”

As a matter of fact, the Indian real and sinister objective behind these massive demographic changes is to thwart the related UN resolutions which recognise that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people will be decided after holding a plebiscite. So, if New Delhi is compelled to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir in the future, the results can go in the Indian favour.

However, Indian illegal efforts to change the demographics of the IIOJK have been marked as a blatant act of political coercion, violation of the UN Security Council resolution 47 (1948) of 21 April 1948 and disregard of the international norms.

The act is political apartheid and is considered an infringement on the right of self-determination of the people of the IIOJK.

Moreover, after gerrymandering in IIOJK constituencies, the Indian attempt to add nonlocals in electoral rolls will enable BJP/RSS to further the fascist agenda through political means.

Nevertheless, Islamabad has called on India to desist from all actions in occupied Jammu and Kashmir which violate international law, the UN Charter, and the 4th Geneva Convention. Pakistan has appealed to the international community to take immediate cognisance of the open Indian attempts at effecting illegal demographic changes in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir and to allow non-Kashmiris to vote and own land there.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

(Courtesy kashmirwatch.com)