Delimitation Commission & challenges ahead in J&K

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Sanjay Sapru

Jammu and Kashmir, for long has been the site of contestation for all-federalists, the ruling party, opposition and voices from civil society, alike. As we await the redrawing of constituencies by Delimitation Commission, constituted this year (2021) to redraw the Assembly constituencies of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, it is useful to first analyse the history and need to take stock of indicators beyond the population numbers while committing to this action in Jammu and Kashmir.
Based on 2011 Census, the Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in such a way that the population of all seats, as far as practicable, is the same. The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Woman, Minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (regions where their population is relatively large). This basic norm/guideline was never respected in J&K for Last 70 years.
According to the census of 1971 and 1981 (even if we forget the earlier period) population percentage of different divisions of Jammu and Kashmir was, Jammu around 45 per cent of state population, Kashmir 52 per cent and Ladakh around 2.5 per cent and yet the distribution of seats of state legislature was done in a manner that Kashmir got the lion’s share of seats- more than 55 per cent, Jammu division got only 42 per cent seats and Ladakh 2.6 per cent. In case of parliamentary seats Kashmir took away 50 per cent and remaining 50 per cent got distributed between Ladakh and Jammu in the ratio of 16.6 per cent and 33.3 per cent respectively. This distribution of seats was solely based on the population figures with no regard to the area. The discrimination is visible within Kashmir province as well.
Historically Kashmir is divided into 3 Regions, namely Kamraz (North Kashmir) Yamraz (Central Kashmir) & Maraz (South Kashmir). Kamraz / North Kashmir/ (Baramulla District prior to 1979) with the area of 6967 Sq Km is 42.60 per cent of whole Kashmir valley area. Maraz/ South Kashmir/Anantnag District with 5382 Sq Km area is only 34 per cent of Kashmir valley and yet when it comes to representation in the Assembly, Kamraz has only 15 seats and Maraz 16, while Kamraz has only three districts in comparison to Maraz which has four. Generally, the public spending and development of a region or area is based on the number of legislative seats it has. However, one sees that Kamraz or the North Kashmir in present day parlance is the most discriminated region in every respect including the representation of people in elected forum. Kamraz had equal, if not less share of population within Kashmir Division yet its share of seats in state Legislature was less. (This is without taking into account the area and other aspects into consideration).
It becomes distinctly visible that the ‘democratic setup’ in Jammu and Kashmir was used as a cover up to achieve narrow self-interests by the Vocal Kashmir-Centric leadership. They had no regard for fairness, transparency and accountability. The other parties/regions were marginalized on one pretext or the other. Jammu region was treated unfairly because it has different ethnicity and religion. Within Kashmir religious minorities, Hindus in particular were targeted and marginalised again on basis of religion. Kamraz was also treated shabbily because people there were poor and under privileged-hence voiceless. Furthermore, no other political party was allowed to function as that would mean competition.
In 2002, the numbers of voters in Jammu were more than Kashmir by 1.41 lakh. In 2014, Kashmir voters exceeded Jammu voters by 4.21 lakh – a swing of 5.67 lakh. It is surprising as to how Kashmir’s population increased by 14,11,000 in 10 years from 2001 to 2011. According to the 2011 Census, the average population growth of Jammu province which was 31 per cent between 1971-2001 and dropped to 21 per cent in 2011. A decrease of 10 per cent population of Jammu proves that 2011 census amounted to migration of 10 per cent Jammu population on paper. Due to 1990 migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir to Jammu and to outside the State the percentage growth in Kashmir’s population should have been lower than that of Jammu, but it instead it is shown to grow by 26 per cent from that of census figures of 1991. It puts a big question mark on the Census figures of 2011.
Religious minorities of Kashmir valley were in a position to elect four members to the first Legislative/Constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Even this was not acceptable to the political leadership and the constituencies in which these minorities were in a position to influence electoral outcome were redrawn in a manner that by 1990 it was impossible for them to send even one representative to the state legislature. This was a design to marginalise, exclude and eliminate their presence from every aspect of Kashmir Life, be it the land, economy or political empowerment. One can say that the mass Displacement of Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir in 1989-90 was the logical culmination of this policy.
Up to 1.5 million Gujjars and Bakarwals live in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – around 11.9 per cent of the region’s total population as per the 2011 Census. Gujjars-Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir have been urging for correction. Census 2011, National Population Register as first phase was held between June and September 2010 in the state when migratory tribes were under migration to upper reaches of Himalayas at that point of time.
West Pakistan refugees, Balmiki Samaj members, and Gorkhas were denied any representation in the Assembly. By some estimate this population approx accounted for 0.4-.05 Million.
Jammu and Kashmir has population of 1.25 Crores, an increase from a figure of 1.01 Crore in 2001 census estimated to be 1.50 Crore today. Total population of Jammu and Kashmir as per 2011 census is 1.25 Crores of which male and female are 66 Lakhs and 60 Lakhs respectively. In 2001, total population was 1.01 Crores in which males were 53 Lakhs while females were 48 Lakhs. The total population growth in this decade was 23.64 percent while in previous decade it was 29.04 percent.
In the 2011 Census, no door to door survey was conducted, however the records reveal that the population of Hindus in Kashmir stood at 1.64 lakhs, with a sex ratio as 10:1. This sex ratio, compared to national figure of 1000:940, is a complete farce. According to 2001 census, Kashmir Hindus formed 1.84 per cent of Kashmir population. It further states that 1.5 lakh to 3 lakhs Kashmiri Pandits were displaced to Jammu and other parts of India due to terrorism. It is pertinent to mention that after Hindu exodus in 1989-90, two censuses were conducted, i.e., in 2001 and 2011 both have been Eye-wash & pure fabrication.
Census figures show that the difference between the population of Jammu and Kashmir increased by 44 per cent between 2001 and 2011 i.e., post outbreak of insurgency in 1989 as compared to 16 per cent between 1971 and 1981, which again supports that 2011 census was a fraud. Between 1981 and 2011, population of Muslims as a percentage of total population increased by 4.12 per cent and those of Hindus & Sikhs fell by 4.27 per cent. This can be explained by only two ways – either the Census was fabricated or the Hindus disappeared in Lakhs. If only mathematical calculations are considered, by the present delimitation commission, as the basis for seats distribution/enhancement, then the seat distribution would be as given below in table 3. This distribution would be unjust and pop up a wrong outcome as not only the 2011 census figures seem to be fabricated but other aspects of delimitation like, land area, economic and political empowerment would be causalities.
It is right time to put an end to the decades of discrimination, manipulation and exclusion. If Democracy has to flourish now in the reorganized Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, The Delimitation Commission will have to work hard. Population alone is not the criterion for delimitation of territorial Constituencies. Geographical compactness, facilities of communication and conveniences to the public are equally important considerations. Above all Delimitation Commission has to take into consideration, anomalies of the past and population increase since the last Census which is estimated at 1.50 Cr at present.
Delimitation Commission has to provide proper representation to different sections of the population i.e., Gujjars , Bakarwals, West Pakistan refugees, Balmiki Samaj members, and Gorkhas who have been denied the same since last 70 years .
Furthermore, Minority Communities in Kashmir valley who had to undergo migration must be guaranteed adequate representation. It can be achieved in numerous diverse ways. The seats from which Minority candidates were elected in 1952 could be reserved for them. Our Constitution has enough room and precedence to ensure such a reservation. Even in Jammu and Kashmir there was a provision to nominate two members to the Legislative Assembly to give representation to women, if the women are not adequately represented in the Legislative Assembly. This provision has been retained in The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019. Same is the case with SCs/STs and other hitherto unrepresented sections of society. While we look at this exercise more closely, the effort should be to bring to the attention of the authorities, these salient needs of the time so that one can effectively bring in democratically devised provisions and ensure adequate representation and remedy historical shortsightedness.