The J&K Delimitation Commission on Monday proposed to increase six seats for the Jammu division and one for the Kashmir division, besides reserving 16 seats for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) communities in the Union Territory, evoking sharp reactions from the regional parties.
The commission, headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, met its five associate members, including two Members of Parliament from the BJP and three from the National Conference , which earlier boycotted it, in New Delhi on Monday.
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The commission has not specified the districts where the SC and STs seats have been reserved to the associate members. The proposed assembly segments in the Jammu division stand at 43 against 47 in the Kashmir division.
The commission suggested to the associate members that the 2011 census, with the Jammu division having 53.5 lakh population and the Kashmir division 68.8 lakh, was considered as the basis to carve out the new seats.
An NC MP confirmed to The Hindu that the commission has proposed six seats for the Jammu province and only one for the Kashmir division. Besides, the draft proposal has suggested nine seats reserved for ST and seven for SC.
J&K will have a 90-member Legislative Assembly now, up from 87 prior to the Centre’s decision to end J&K’s special constitutional position.
Unacceptable, says Masoodi
NC MP Hasnain Masoodi, who attended the meeting, termed the proposal “unacceptable”. “It is a matter of concern. We will submit our report in detail very soon, as the proposal is not acceptable at all,” he said.
“There is already a Supreme Court ruling granting a status quo regarding delimitation, if the commission prepares the draft based on 2011 census. It will be unconstitutional. The commission assured the exercise will be carried out as per the ruling,” he stated.
NC vice president Omar Abdullah said the distribution of newly created Assembly constituencies, with six going to Jammu and only one to Kashmir was not justified by the data of the 2011 census. “It is deeply disappointing that the commission appears to have allowed the political agenda of the BJP to dictate its recommendations rather than the data which should have been it’s only consideration. Contrary to the promised ‘scientific approach’, it’s a political approach,” he stated.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said her apprehensions about the Commission weren’t misplaced. “They want to pitch people against each other by ignoring the population census and preposing six seats for one region and only one for Kashmir,” she observed.
The commission had been created simply to serve the BJPs political interests by dividing people along religious and regional lines. The real game plan was to install a government in J&K that would legitimise the illegal and unconstitutional decisions of August 2019, she noted.
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Sajad Lone, who heads the Peoples Conference, remarked, “The recommendations of the delimitation commission are totally unacceptable. They reek of bias. What a shock for those who believe in democracy”.
CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami termed it “unacceptable”. “It’s another step to further disempower Kashmiris politically. Despite the matter of Reorganisation Act being sub judice, the Government of India is taking irreversible steps, which are harmful to the interests of J&K people,” he said.
The three-member commission was constituted on March 6, 2020, specifically for J&K by virtue of the Parliament Act under the provisions of Part V of J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 and its term will end in March next.
In a statement, the Delimitation Commission said the Monday meeting was attended by all five associate members of the panel as well as the Chief Electoral Officer of J&K. Commission member and Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra shared the commission’s experiences of interacting with people during its visit to J&K.
“Associate Members appreciated the fact that this Commission visited the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and met large number of people in person. They assured that all necessary assistance would be extended in the work of delimitation,” the statement read.
Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said the number of districts had increased from 12 to 20 and tehsils from 52 to 207 since the last delimitation. The population density ranged from 29 persons a square km in Kishtwar to 3,436 persons a square km in Srinagar. The administration had been giving compensatory allowance to government officials in some areas due to remoteness of the place, inaccessibility etc, the statement read.
In some areas along the international border, the inhabitants were forced to take shelter in bunkers intermittently, it noted. The commission had categorised the districts into three categories.
“The Commission has also, for some districts, proposed carving out of an additional constituency to balance the representation for geographical areas having inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences due to their excessive remoteness or inhospitable conditions on the international border. For the first time, in Jammu and Kashmir, nine seats are proposed to be allocated for Scheduled Tribes out of 90 seats on the basis of population. Seven seats are proposed for Scheduled Castes,” it stated.
The commission shared the document describing the proposed seat allocation at district-level with the members and asked for their views by December 31.
(With inputs from Damini Nath )