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Kashmir Delimitation

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Narendra Modi-led BJP-RSS government in India is hell bent on depriving the Muslims of Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) of all their democratic rights. With an illegal act of repealing articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, the fascist regime has now issued another nefarious plan: depriving the majority population of Muslims of their right to have a Muslim ruler by reducing the seats of Muslim-majority areas in the IIOJK assembly.

This development came on December 20, 2021, when a delimitation commission, which was established under a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Ranjana Prakash Desai, issued its controversial proposal to redraw the electoral map of IIOJK. The Commission has proposed an extra six seats for the Jammu region, which will take its total representation in the legislature to 43 from 37 while only an increase of one seat has been recommended for Kashmir, which will come to have 47 seats if the draft advice is given effect in the current form.

According to the mandate of the commission, the delimitation exercise was to be based on the 2011 census and population should have been the sole criteria for redrawing assembly seats. However, it is clear that the commission has not followed its mandate because as per the suggestions, seats in Kashmir will have a population ratio of 1.46 lakh against 1.25 lakh in Jammu province. It is pertinent to mention here that according to the 2011 census, Kashmir has 15 lakh more population than Jammu – 68.8 lakh vs 53.5 lakh.

Widespread criticism
The new proposal has evoked widespread criticism in the Occupied Valley, with political leaders alleging that the recommendation reeks of a partisan approach by the commission. Many view the recommendation as an “assault on political centrality and supremacy” of Kashmir in J&K’s politics and “part of the series of measures started by BJP-led government from August 5, 2019 to disempower Kashmiris”.

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a group of IIOJK’s mainstream political parties, including the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has protested against the delimitation award, saying that the panel’s recommendations are ‘divisive’ and ‘unacceptable’. “In our view, this will further divide the ranks of people of J&K, deepen their alienation, and create a much bigger void between communities and the regions,” PAGD said in a statement, maintaining that the delimitation exercise should be based on the 2011 census. It has been alleged that the BJP-led government is rushing ahead with delimitation as it wants to tilt the electoral balance in favour of the Hindu-majority of Jammu division at the expense of the Kashmir Valley, which has a Muslim-majority population.

“The draft recommendation of the J&K delimitation commission is unacceptable. The distribution of newly created assembly constituencies with 6 going to Jammu & only 1 to Kashmir is not justified by the data of the 2011 census,” former chief minister and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said: “The real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimise the illegal & unconstitutional decisions of August 2019”.

“My apprehensions about the Delimitation Commission weren’t misplaced. They want to pitch people against each other by ignoring the population census & proposing 6 seats for one region & only one for Kashmir,” she said.

People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone said the proposal “reeks of a bias” and is a “shock to those who believe in democracy in Kashmir”. “The recommendations of the delimitation commission are totally unacceptable. They reek of bias. What a shock for those who believe in democracy,” Lone tweeted.
Critics of the delimitation have pointed out that the exercise should have been carried out after the completion of 2021 census. While the 2011 census data is to inform the delimitation process, it has been alleged that there is a mismatch in the apportionment of seats between the Jammu division and the Valley.

What Kashmir deserves
While the commission has recommended 43 seats for Jammu and 47 for Kashmir in the 90-member assembly, a simple calculation based on the population figures in the 2011 census shows that Kashmir’s tally should go to 51 seats, from existing 46, and Jammu should get 39 seats, up from the existing 37. A look at the figures suggests that the commission has proposed to carve out one seat per 1,25,082 people in the Jammu region and one seat per 1,46,563 people in the Kashmir region. In effect 10,09,621 people of Kashmir have been disenfranchised.

Delimitation is an exercise undertaken in democracies to ensure continued fair and equal representation to all constituents in legislative bodies. The important criterion for this is population but in J&K, the commission has taken into consideration the constituencies’ geographical features, communication facilities and contiguity, public convenience, etc. as factors. With the new proposals, the commission has relatively increased the political representation of the Hindu-dominated Jammu region and reduced the representation of the Muslim-majority Valley. The disproportionate increase in the number of seats in the Jammu region would give an advantage to parties that have sway there, and at present that happens to be the BJP. The basis for this is the communal polarisation in the Occupied valley on regional lines.

The writer is a member of staff.

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