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Mixed emotions overwhelm KP migrant voters in Jammu

Return, relief, facilities in camps, employment weigh on minds
01:14 AM May 14, 2024 IST | SHUCHISMITA
mixed emotions overwhelm kp migrant voters in jammu
Photo: Mir Imran/ GK

Jammu, May 13



Mixed emotions overwhelmed Kashmiri Pandit (KP) migrants, who exercised their right to vote, as registered voters of Srinagar parliamentary constituency, in special polling stations set up for them at different places in Jammu and Udhampur on Monday.

The constituency went to polls in the fourth phase of general elections – 2024 today.


Enthusiasm following scrapping of cumbersome procedure of Form-M was palpable and it found reflection in long queues at the polling stations. Yet at the same time, several migrants did not mince words in sharing their disappointment over missing names in the electoral rolls.


For elders and middle-aged voters, return to Kashmir; relief; facilities in camps were the major issues which brought them to the polling stations. For few, political leaning with nostalgia was an overpowering factor behind their determination to cast votes.


Age factor was defining a cautious approach being exercised by the voters during their interaction with the media. This was, however, heartening to see that the youth, bubbling with enthusiasm, too were guarded in dropping hints about political affiliations.


Youngsters, the majority of whom were the first-timers, were forthcoming in discussing poll-issues weighing on their minds yet were particular that they would air political opinion through vote only.


Several voters in different polling stations including those set up at Jagti, GCW Gandhinagar, Muthi returned dejected after finding their names missing in the electoral rolls. “They scrapped Form-M for good but concerned authorities faltered in enrolment of all registered voters. But it (Form-M scrapping) did not benefit us as despite having EPIC, we could not cast our vote,” the disappointed voters alleged.

Interestingly, among this dejected lot also included former minister Raman Mattoo. "See, I'm a former minister. I'm going back without casting my vote as my name was not there in the electoral roll. If this has happened with a former minister, you can well imagine the situation of common voters," Mattoo said, while speaking to the media outside a polling station in Gandhinagar.

President of Jagti Tenement Committee and Congress leader Shadi Lal Pandita, while speaking to the media, too pointed out that some voters in Jagti camp, Muthi and some other areas too faced the same problem. “Voters had an election card (EPIC). But their names were not there in the electoral rolls hence they could not vote. Electoral rolls were faulty,” he alleged.


Indira Pandita from Jagti camp stated that she exercised her right to vote, keeping in view the future of her children. “We have been here in Jammu for the past 10 or 12 years. I’ve voted here in Jammu, only once or twice. I’ve never voted in Kashmir. It was heartening to see arrangements made for voting here. First time I saw arrangements like this,” says Indira, who is in her mid-forties.

Bharat Bhushan Razdan said that he felt good after casting his vote. “In Kashmir also, we used to go to cast our vote. But it would be a harrowing experience. We used to get harassed. As and when we reached there, either we would not be allowed to cast our vote or would be told that it had already been cast. Here it (voting) was a smooth affair. Our only issue is that the government means whosoever takes over reins, should think about us vis-a-vis employment for our children and our return to our roots,” he said. Though he did not clarify who would obstruct them.

“This is the third time for me to cast a vote. First time I exercised my right in 2014, then in 2019 and now third time in 2024. For us, our major concern has been that relief has not been enhanced for the last six years. Among important poll issues, return and rehabilitation; unemployment, water scarcity in camps, repair of flats have always weighed on our minds,” said Rajinder Raina, who voted in a special polling station set up for migrants at Jagti.

Notably, a free transport facility for migrants was also arranged.

Ravi Kaul, in his mid-fifties, said, “I did cast my vote in the past as well, in Srinagar. But most of the time, it was marked by harassment. Like I would be told – Panditji, your vote has already been cast. Here at Jagti, I voted without any fear. For me, major poll issues were - return to Kashmir; relief and rehabilitation; repair of our one-room tenements and unemployment of our children. Our educated children are unemployed and nobody has bothered to address this issue.”


At the same polling station, a youngster shared that she exercised her right of franchise, her maiden experience, to express anger. “Our elected government should provide us employment. This is disappointing that none of them (politicians) has been able to ensure our return to our roots in Kashmir,” she said.

She was there with her mother and ailing maternal grand-mother. Her mother said, “Voting is important for everyone and that's why we've come. I've brought my ailing mother as well.” However, she had a different take on political developments - a view diametrically opposite to her daughter.

A first-time voter, who voted in a polling station at JKBOSE, Rehari, wishing anonymity said, “I'm excited to use my (voting) power to air my political opinion through ballot for the first-time. I implore all my fellow youngsters to experience this feeling of empowerment. Take it as a responsibility and a powerful medium to get things done in our own way. Definitely, I had certain issues. I voted to get them addressed.”

In a polling station established at Talab Tillo, Neha Zutshi, - a first-time voter, was exuberant while sharing her experience. “Despite it being my first-time, I’m politically enlightened. We've seen - who has done what and for whom. I gave my vote, weighing those considerations in mind. I was very clear in my political perception. I had made up my mind vis-a-vis my choice before coming here to cast a vote. I voted as per my choice - others in the family may have their own choice.”

At Udhampur, a polling station for Kashmiri migrants was established at Shaheed Captain Tushar Mahajan GHSS. A migrant family after casting their vote said that for them good government was the only issue.

S N Dhar, who had come along with his mother to cast vote, was elated to see extra efforts made by the Election Commission to facilitate voters.