The Muslim-majority region is entirely claimed but partly governed by nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars for control of the territory.
India withdrew semi-autonomy from its part of the region in 2019, amending India’s constitution to allow non-Kashmiris to vote and own land there.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar told reporters on Wednesday that more than 2 million new voters are expected to be registered in the region ahead of local elections scheduled for November. New registrations could increase the number of voters by more than a third, adding to the 7.6 million existing voters in the region.
“We expect an addition of (2-2.5 million) new voters in the final list,” Kumar said, including non-Kashmiris living in the region.
Kashmiris fear the rule changes could allow the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to alter the region’s demographics, suppressing a decades-long independence movement.
The BJP says its policies in the region benefit ordinary Kashmiris.
This decision was strongly criticized by the main political parties in Kashmir.
Former Chief Minister and Chairman of the J&K Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, said he aimed to influence the election results.
A second former chief minister, Omar Abdullah of the rival Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, also criticized the decision.