Staff Reporter

“It is an attempt to erase us so that we can no longer claim to be Kashmiris”

NEW DELHI: To protest against the “discrimination” faced by them at the hands of the government and the authorities in voting procedures, a global youth initiative of the Kashmiri Pandits called “Roots in Kashmir” organised a protest at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday.

Along with Roots in Kashmir, members of Panun Kashmir, All-India Kashmiri Samaj, Kashmiri Sewak Samaj and Internally Displaced Kashmiri Pandit Youth Front also participated in the protest wearing black bands across their face.

The protesters demanded that voting procedure for the migrants be simplified to ensure their 100 per cent participation in the democratic process.

According to Roots in Kashmir, the number of members of the Pandit community in the voter list of Jammu and Kashmir had dropped considerably in the past two decades. “While the year 1996 saw 1.47 lakh of them, in 2002 their number slipped to 1.17 lakh and further down to 0.71 lakh during the Assembly polls held in the State last year,” added Aditya Raj Kaul of Roots in Kashmir.

A youth activist in the protest group, Ranish Hangloo, said: “At a time when registering as a voter is a mere mouse click away, the Election Commission in connivance with the State is making the registration process more tedious for us to ensure that we are denied even a basic human right.”

Criticising the voting procedures for Kashmiri migrants, Chief Coordinator of Roots in Kashmir Sanjay Peshin said: “With polling facilities in only two cities in India, the State ensures that over a lakh Pandits living in cities other than Delhi and Jammu do not get to vote.”

“It is but a part of the larger process to erase us not just from geographical horizon of Kashmir but from mind-spaces, voter lists and ration cards so that one day we can no longer claim to be Kashmiris,” he added.