Ballots will beat bullets, feels EC
12 September 2002
New Delhi: Despite yesterday’s high-profile killings, the Election Commission feels that voters in Jammu and Kashmir will exercise their right of franchise in defiance of threats by terrorist organisations. Election Commission officials believe the “tremendous enthusiasm” shown by the people to acquire voter identity cards is an indication that ballots may just beat the bullets in the state. There was a scramble to get the I-cards, officials say. On an average, nearly two lakh I-cards have been issued in each of the 14 districts, including those in the Valley. Election Commission officials, in the final stages of preparations for the most important Assembly poll in recent history, say that such was the interest in I-cards that the commission failed to issue them to every applicant. Voters without these cards can cast their ballot by producing any of the 17 alternative identity proofs listed by the commission. “That the EC could not meet the demands for the photo ID cards itself is evidence of the enthusiasm of voters in Jammu and Kashmir to participate in the poll process,” Mr SK Mendiratta and Mr KJ Rao of the EC said. I-cards for Kashmiris have been printed in the government press in Nasik which deals with high security print orders. This has been done, EC officials said, keeping in mind the security situation in the state. Mr Rao, who left for Srinagar today, also said special care has been taken to make voting as easy an exercise as possible. The commission would set up polling booths in a manner so that no one needs to travel “more than two km to vote”. Each family is being given a voters’ slip listing the names of voters in the family. Serial numbers and the polling station are marked in the slip. The commission has also relaxed its rules and will entertain any request from a voter whose name does not figure in the list, till 48 hours before notification of the election schedule. Election Commission officials also said that “all efforts are being made to prevent rigging”. Already, officials said, the district magistrate of Udhampur, Mr Shailendra Kumar, and an SHO in Bandipora, Baramulla district have been transferred on the advice of the Election Commission.