EC triggers action against Mehbooba

Agence France Presse

New Delhi, May 4:

India’s Election Commission today ordered police in Kashmir to register criminal charges against the leader of the region’s ruling party for unveiling a Muslim woman voter during balloting. Commission spokesman A N Jha said the order was issued following complaints that People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti snatched off the voter’s veil inside a polling station in Srinagar on April 26. The panel ordered police to press charges of harassment and intimidation against Mufti.

The state’s opposition National Conference party had threatened to boycott the remaining vote in the Indian-administered region unless action was taken against her. Along with the rest of India, voting in Kashmir’s six constituencies has been staggered to buy time for re-deployment of troops and election supervisors.

Mufti in her defence said she lifted the veil from the face of the voter to establish her identity, arguing that many women misused the veil to cast bogus votes. “I welcome the election commission’s step because an inquiry will establish that the woman was a bogus voter,” she told reporters, claiming the woman was part of a “mobile voter” contingent raised by the opposition to cheat in the election. “These people (the opposition) use poor women who put on burqas and are paid to become mobile voters,” Mufti said. She accused the poll watchdog of ordering the police case against her only to “appease” the opposition Conference. The incident shown on various television networks also angered women’s groups, who had called for action against Mufti. The daughter of the divided state’s chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Mufti was abducted in 1989 by Muslim rebels in an incident seen as the beginning of Islamic insurgency in Kashmir. Tens of thousands of people have died in militancy-linked violence since 1989 in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.