Delimitation of Jammu & Kashmir Assembly Constituencies

News Bharati    09-Jun-2019   


By appointing Amit Shah as the Home Minister, BJP has infuriated separatists and political leaders in Kashmir Valley who have had their way for too long, in fact for over six decades, for the fear of losing their extra privileges. These people have exploited Valley Politics for their personal gains and in the bargain, the Nation and People of Kashmir have paid a very heavy price. Politicians amongst them have made millions by holding on to power; Separatists have been living off/ skimming/milking the good will of all time Central Governments; Terrorists are being patronized by mainstream politicians in the valley, Security Forces are being maligned for a very long time.

This appointment of Amit Shah as Home Minister has made it clear that these will be things of the past and find no place in Kashmir of future. There were strong rumors of Delimitation Exercise being undertaken to ensure equitable representation in the State Assembly from all regions of the State.

Currently, it is heavily one sided in favor of Kashmir Valley at the cost of Jammu and Ladakh Regions and not adhering to norms of Area viz-a-viz Population per se as per the Constitution. Last delimitation exercise was done in 1992-95 without taking in to account, forced migration of Hindus (Kashmiri Pundits) from the Valley. In 2002 Farooq Abdullah as Chief Minister of coalition Government of National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, arbitrarily amended the State Constitution to put a bar on any type of Delimitation Exercise till 2026 with a brute majority, to retain political control/power in the Kashmir Valley which has a predominantly Muslim population. This was a motivated measure to suit vested interests like his Father did in 1952. Resultantly, J&K did not figure in the nationwide delimitation exercise carried out in 2008.

After Partition, then Sadar e Riyasat (Prime Minister) of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, carved out 30 seats for the Jammu region, 43 seats for Kashmir Valley and two seats for the Ladakh region in J&K Assembly. As on date, the Assembly has 87 elected seats with Kashmir Valley having 46 seats, Jammu 37 and Ladakh four. There are stark anomalies in the size of constituencies, both for State Assembly and for the Parliament. If one gets corrected the other will stand corrected automatically. The average number of voters per state Assembly Seat in Kashmir Valley is far less than that in the Jammu region. Ladakh because of its size and terrain has separate yardstick. Gujjars, Bakarwals and Gaddies who form 11% of the population were given Scheduled Tribe status in 1991 but they have no Political Reservation, when, as per norms of the Constitution, such sections are provided throughout India. Similarly, refugees from West Pakistan who have settled in the State and enjoy voting privileges in the rest of India are not given voting rights in Jammu & Kashmir since 1952.These anomalies require correction in true spirit of Democracy.

 During debates on Jammu & Kashmir on Television or in Newspapers; Leaders/ Separatists from Kashmir Valley take umbrage of/quote Indian Constitution and traditions being followed since 1952 and refer to the Special Status of Jammu & Kashmir, as and when it suits them. On matter of sharing Political Power equitably across the State and Delimitation, they want to retain ‘Status Quo’ which prevents/bars Centre from carrying out any changes. But, if State Government under Farooq Abdullah amended State Constitution in 2002 using its brute Legislative Powers, so is the Governor empowered to intervene and exercise the same powers vested in him during President’s Rule. The last delimitation too, was carried out provisionally by Governor in similar circumstances in 1993. Thus legally, it appears there is no bar to carrying out any Delimitation Exercise, as on date, Jammu & Kashmir is under President’s rule.

On the other hand, lakhs of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar who are surreptitiously settled in Jammu & Ladakh since 2012, with full knowledge of State Governments in the past, is a matter of grave security for Central Government who wants to take suitable measures to rid Jammu & Kashmir of these “Dangerous Immigrants’. These people are likely to gain access to voting rights with active connivance of State Administration as time goes by and create another Assam like situation. It is crystal clear as to who will benefit if Rohingya Muslims find a way to merge in the State. Delimitation exercise will prevent such possibility as already there are reports of Politicians from Kashmir Valley visiting these camps to enroll Rohingya Muslims as party members.

 

Since Jammu & Kashmir was annexed to India in 1948, minorities in the State always had a raw deal by design, in terms of political Power Sharing/Development and Proportionate Representation in the State. All Central Governments in the past chose to ignore this in their eagerness to keep Kashmiriyat intact and keep Polity/Separatist in good humour. But then nothing is permanent and everything is perceivable to change. That time has come for Jammu & Kashmir and a beginning is already visible on the horizon. Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. Local political leadership in Jammu & Kashmir must see the writing on the wall and cooperate with the Government at the Centre to ensure that changes that come in are in the best interests of the State and its Population. If they choose to confront and obstruct, Centre will have its way and do what it thinks is best for the State and the Nation as a whole.

Amit Shah has already met Intelligence Bureau director Rajiv Jain and Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, apart from the Governor Sri Satyapal Malik on 03 June 2019. Delimitation of Assembly Seats seemed to be on the agenda effecting a change in the composition of the Assembly through reservation to Scheduled Tribes, including Gujjars, Bakerwals and Gaddis. The delimitation exercise will be conducted in accordance with the Constitution and Norms & Procedures, taking into account various parameters of Population, Area, Terrain and Topography, in order to ensure complete justice with each and every area. Though Home Ministry has denied the rumors on 05 June 2019, the thought is gaining weight because “where there is smoke, there ought to be fire”.