Er. P. L. Khushu
The boycotting of the Delimitation Commission meeting, by the National Conference leadership is quite unfortunate. As is known through media that they have done so, due to the fact that what has been done on August 5 (2019) is not acceptable to that political party. They say when we have not accepted that, how could we accept delimitation commission for J&K. On August 5, 2019, the Centre revoked special status of J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated erstwhile state into two Union Territories, union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Dr. Farooq Abdulah has said, that “I myself (as chief minister) delayed the delimitation exercise because the delimitation was scheduled to take place in the country in 2026. What was the reason for carrying out the delimitation at this time? Why not they go for the exercise in the entire country instead of picking-up only a few states? That is our issue,” he said, He added that had it been done across the country, National Conference would have gladly joined the exercise. But they have picked-up J&K deliberately, therefore ‘we are not with it’. Well it is the democratic right of that party as also people aligned with it to speak and practice so. No one can question such observations of theirs. But the question remains that the process of delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir has probably nothing to do with the abrogation of articles 370,35A and the like, particularly when this issue has been challenged in the Supreme Court of India. The downgrading of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to the status of UT has been challenged in the Supreme Court of India, by National Conference MPs and other notable public figures. The basic argument is that is a violation of the principle of federalism and of Article 3 of the Constitution. When this issue is pending a decision by the Apex court, the leadership of this party having ruled the erstwhile state for decades should have shown broadmindedness and willingness by attending the delimitation commission meetings. This would mitigate the apprehensions and allegations that Jammu and its people has been badly discriminated on the basis of the population ratio viz a viz Kashmir division, by erstwhile Governments which includes the government led by National Conference too in the past mostly. Thus, why to shy away?Almost a year after being constituted on March 6, 2020, the Delimitation Commission has started the exercise to redraw electoral boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), along with four other states. While the Commission, headed by Justice Ranjana Desai, is the fifth since Independence, it is unique insofar as it has been formed when there is a constitutional freeze on the increase or decrease of the parliamentary and legislative assembly seats till after the population census of 2026. Even though set up under Delimitation Act of 2002, it will redraw the constituencies of J&K in accordance with the provisions of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019. The J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, has decided two of the three key elements in the delimitation of assembly constituencies. First, the number of electors has already been decided, by stipulating the population census of 2011 as the base. For all other states going in for delimitation along with J&K, the population figures of 2001 census are being used. Second, through the Act, the Union Government has increased the number of representatives to the legislative assembly of J&K from 107 to 114. So far, changing the number of representatives has been the prerogative of the Delimitation Commission. It is mandated and empowered by clause 8(b) of the Delimitation Act of 2002 to decide on the ‘the total number of seats to be assigned to the Legislative Assembly of each State and determine on the basis of the census figures’. The other major part of delimitation that has been left to the Commission is the electoral cartography, the redrawing of boundaries and enclosing people within the constituency framework, on the basis of actual population figures and purely not on basis of 2011 census figures. Notwithstanding all these issues in the context of J&K, redrawing of the constituencies is an extraordinarily complex and highly needed and a desired exercise. It has to potentially balance the electoral demographic imbalance between the two regions, the root-cause of sufferance for Jammu and its people for an appropriate development of Jammu region with an appropriate share in the state administration along with proper legislative powers and share thereof. The critics whom it does not suit say that this severely compromises the Commission’s mandate vis-a-vis J&K. It is not a fact. This is a fair opportunity for Delimitation Commission-2020 to undo faulty Delimitations done earlier, at the belligerent cost of Jammu division and its people. Jammu has suffered a lot due to the apathies shown to it and to its people for its inherent development since 1947, with a gruesome reference to its population share, as per various data’s compiled in past, of course susceptible to doubts of sorts. The newly created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), will be the only one in the country to undergo a delimitation exercise on population figures recorded in the 2011 census. As per 2011 census, the population of Kashmir region is 68, 88,475 souls, that of Jammu region is 53, 78,538 souls and that of Ladakh is 2, 74,289 souls. This 2011 census is per – se not giving a true picture of the population of the Jammu region, for the reasons as follows.The last time a delimitation exercise took place in the state under President’s rule when General Krishna Rao was the Governor of J&K for the second time from 1993 to 1998. The delimitation commission was set up in year 1995. The commission gave its recommendations and increased the assembly seats from 76 to 87, but unfortunately failed to address the problems and concerns of Jammu region. In 76 seats Jammu had 32 seats; Kashmir was having 42 seats and Ladakh 2 seats, which the commission raised to 87 seats, giving 37 seats to Jammu, 46 seats to Kashmir and 4 seats to Ladakh. As per the constitution, the delimitation takes place after every 10 years and accordingly the next delimitation was to take place logically in year 2005. But the National Conference government chose to freeze the new delimitation until 2026, in 2002, by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of People’s Act 1957 and section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. The amended Section 47 (3) provided that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after 2026 is published, it shall not be necessary to readjust total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the state along with the division of the territorial constituencies. Thus, this contentious matter was put in abeyance. Under the present governance when the intentions of the Government policies are pro-people, it is essential that every vote should have the same value to the extent possible, as also every rightful citizen should have the right of franchise. Thus this process of delimitation in this union territory needs to be done on real figures of actual population of Jammu and Kashmir provinces. It is imperative to mention here that as per 2011 census, the total population of Jammu division was 53, 78,538 souls, covering an area of 25.93%. Against this Kashmir division as per 2011 census was having 68, 88,475 souls, covering only 15.73 per cent of the entire area. Ladakh has 58.33 per cent of the states area, when the population is just 2.18 per cent. It is unfortunate to mention here that in this census report, a large gap of population of about more than 15 lakh have been mentioned more in Kashmir division and thus showing a big gap of population between the Kashmir division and Jammu division, when the situation is not so. Here reference is invited to large group of migratory population of the state, like Jugars and Bakerwals, which is a migratory population and are mostly on the move between regions of Kashmir and Jammu. This entire population comprising of more than 15 lakh people have been added to the population of the Kashmir division. Similarly a gimmick has been played with the KP’s, when about two lakh KPs have been shown with the population of Kashmir division, when hardly just a few thousand of KPs are living in Kashmir after mass exodus of KP’s. Most of the KPs are living in Jammu after forced displacement from Kashmir, when a good number of KPs are living in parts of India. It shows that the population of Kashmir division has been superficially over enhanced. Thus to restore the concept of real democratic values and principles within the people of J&K, when our country is now having a dedicated and a strong willed government, the relevant actions on the process of delimitation in the state needs a real and a cognizable approach and action so for as the population figures of 2011 census in regard to Jammu division are concerned. Jammu division of Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir deserves proper representation in assembly seat share and in the parliamentary seat share. Similarly Jammu division has suffered a lot for its proper development for last four decades, on account of lesser allocation of funds for various development projects, which is based on the population of the regions, and has always been undermined for Jammu. The people of Jammu may not suffer again if not by design but by default. Thus a scientific approach is to be adopted and convincing methodology in respect of assessing real population of Jammu division. All the stakeholders which includes the people from Kashmir and Jammu represented by the various political leaders of this union territory, have to collectively address this problem and ensure a fair and a cognitive delimitation is done to address grievances of the people of Jammu in this regard. Boycotting such national and regional moves which are meant for the better welfare of Jammu & Kashmir, will mean a suspect attempt colored with biased objectives. Similarly a proper representation has to be afforded to the displaced Kashmiri Pandits, in the new scheme of things after the delimitation process, who are living in exile mostly, to find due representation in the legislative assembly as also proper ministerial berths in the new cabinet, whenever it comes to formation. It will enable this neglected minuscule minority of Jammu and Kashmir to address their problems and grievances before the relevant authorities, which are not only enormous but unending too. They need their proper place back in Kashmir as a separate home land.(The author of this article is a chartered consultant civilengineer, who loves his mother land the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir)
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