What is meant by the delimitation of J&K
for understanding the Delimitation of J&K, we will understand what Delimitation actually is. Delimitation is redrawing of boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha (House of the people which is the lower house of the Indian parliament) constituency. It is done to change the demographics of a union territory or a state.
No delimitation exercise was possible in J&K till 2031. This was before August 2019, when the BJP-led Union government, along with effecting other constitutional and legal changes, repealed the law governing delimitation in the erstwhile state.
Delimitation in J&K has been on the BJP’s agenda since 1995, when the last such exercise was carried out in the erstwhile state.
In August 2019, the government of India abrogated Article 370 and revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Right after the incident, the delimitation commission was set up. It is said to be independent of the government or any political unit in its functioning.
The Delimitation Commission is headed by Justice (retired) Ranjana Desai. As associate members, there are 5 MPs from J&K.
Impacts of Delimitation
The panel has proposed to increase one seat each in Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Doda, Kishtwar, and Rajouri districts in the Jammu region and Kupwara in the Kashmir Valley, as per The Wire.
The Kathua, Samba, and Udhampur segments will be Hindu-majority constituencies. As per census figures, Kathua has an 87.61% Hindu population, while Samba and Udhampur have 86.33% and 88.12% population from the community. Kishtwar, Doda, and Rajouri districts too have also a sizeable Hindu population (between 34% and 45%).
In 1995, Kashmir was allocated 46 seats and Jammu 37. This means that Kashmir, which accounts for 56.15% of the population of J&K, had 55.42% representation in the assembly, and Jammu, where 43.84% of the population of the region resides, had 44.57% representation.
Besides this, the increase in the number of seats in the Jammu region from 1957 is more than double that of Kashmir. While Kashmir saw an overall increase of three seats, Jammu’s seat tally has gone up by seven. In the first assembly election held in 1957, 43 seats were allocated to the Kashmir Valley, 30 to Jammu, and two to Ladakh, which is no longer part of J&K after the reorganization of the erstwhile state.
People in the Kashmir Valley believe that proposal of the delimitation exercise is part of the BJP’s “dream project” of installing a Hindu chief minister in the Muslim-majority J&K.
A Muslim has always been the head of the elected government in J&K since 1947. All chief ministers of J&K, except Ghulam Nabi Azad, have been residents of the Kashmir Valley.
The new proposal has evoked widespread criticism in the Kashmir Valley, with political leaders alleging that the recommendation reeks of a partisan approach by the commission.
“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 legitimize 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 & preposing 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.
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 the existing 46, and Jammu should get 39 seats, up from the existing 37.
According to J&K’s former law secretary Muhammad Ashraf Mir, 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. “One constituency has been carved out for 1,25,082 people in Jammu Division. For Kashmir Division, the same constituency has been established for 1,46,563 people. In effect 10,09,621 people of the valley have been disenfranchised,” Mir tweeted.
Senior journalist and political analyst Gowhar Geelani said the proposal “is an assault on political centrality of Kashmir region”.
Former bureaucrat Lateef-ul-Zaman Deva said the delimitation has been carried out in violation of The J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 and The Delimitation Act-2002. “The proposal is highly objectionable as it has been carried out to disproportionately empower one community by disempowering the other,” he said.
Deva said the selection of districts for new seats is a “pointer to a flagrant breach of law and trust of those who participated in the proceedings of the delimitation commission.”