During the first outreach of the Delimitation Commission(DC) with the political parties and others in Jammu & Kashmir from 6th to 9th July the contradistinctions in the representations of almost all parties was visible & on the basis of inside inputs shared by the delegationists coupled with the interviews telecast on the electronic media the output in Kishtwar has been in conformity with the format deduced from the law governing the delimitation & mapping of the Assembly Segments with special reference to the inaccessible areas being apart from surroundings. The stark contrasts at Jammu with the narratives prominently figuring out in the deliberations at the other three venues are as under:-
1) Displaced persons ( DPs) from ‘’PaK’’ & refugees from west Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) numbering about ten lakhs should be provided representation in the J&K Assembly by defreezing 08 seats from out of 24 seats reserved for the territories forming Pak Administered Kashmir (PaK);
2) One seat each in Northern, central & Southern Kashmir to be reserved for Kashmiri pandits;
3) Under the “other factors’ ‘outlined in the law for delimitation the claims of Jammu Division considered.
4) Equitable distribution of seats between the two divisions;
5) No of reserved seats for Schedule castes to be increased &
6) Reservations for Scheduled Tribes in the Assembly.
The general demands listed above are examined ad-seriatum :-
1) The DPs are permanent residents of the erstwhile State of J&K from the other side of the line of actual control and stand rehabilitated in 07 Distts of Jammu Division, depending upon the availability of State & Evacuee immoveable properties in these Distts, but are not holding specific territories exclusively or even by majority capable of declaring even a single place as a territorial Segment which could form an Assembly constituency. The refugees around one lakh are settled in Kathua, Samba & Jammu tract and their spread is across the three Distts. In the last Assembly the number of seats for Jammu Division was 37 for all persons registered as voters for the State Assembly and in accordance with the Census 2011 the population of the said Division is 5236348, excluding the migrants from Kashmir, which includes DPs & refugees. Assuming the demand were accepted by the DC the population for purposes of delimitation would be reduced to 4236348& @136300 per Constituency average population the number of seats for the Division shall be 31 +07 seats of DPs & refugees @ 142857 per Segment raising the number of Seats to38 only @ 137798 persons against 40 calculated from out of 90 seats @ 130908 for each seat in Jammu Division . What is mischievously designed by staking the claim for these people is off-set due to the reduction of seats otherwise due on the basis of total population excepting migrants who are registered as voters in the Kashmir Division and therefore their population to be added with the population of said Division. In absence of territorial commonality and the prospect of reduction in the number of seats commensurate with the remaining population the exercise would have been a zero sum game. The DC realising the demand being against the J&K Reorganization Act 2019 & outside its mandate rejected it with vehemence it deserved;
2) The Koshur population registered in the Distts of Jammu and Udhampur is 98936 (91733+7203) and116750 in rest of the country which apparently includes koshur muslims settled at the places subject matter of enumeration during the last census . Assuming for the sake of an argument the entire population as migrants the number of migrant voters within JK and outside the UT in rest of the country in accordance with the electoral rolls 2014 is 93373 only answering the bigger question about the Pandit population from out of total koshur population of 98936+ 1116750= 215686.On the basis of average population of 136300 per Constituency in pursuance of Article 170 of the Constitution of India the migrant census population within the UT & those registered as voters in the mainland falls short of the average criterion apart from the fact of their registration as voters in the polling Stations of their respective villages/ Mohallas. The justification for extending the dispensation to the migrant Pandits shall equally be claimed by Sikh community whose population is 234848 more than the migrant Pandits and are largely concentrated in Assembly Segment of Ghandi Nagar Jammu. The resultant natural corollary of communal orientation to the electoral process may find scope for demand by muslims who form 08% of Jammu Distt population and more than the migrant population. The rival claims shall reverberate in rest of the country where Muslims are unable to participate in electoral politics through their community leaders. In States of Assam, west Bengal, Kerala, UP, Bihar, Telangana and Gujrat the Muslims constitute 34 %, 27%, 26%, 20%,16.9%, 13%& 10 % of the respective state populations but the representation is 30, 44, 23, 28, 20, 08 & 03 against electable number of candidates @ 42 ,81, 34, 80+,40, 15 & 18 respectively. The position in the Lok Sabah is no different as against electable 80 candidates by dint of proportional representation the number elected from the community is 27 and none from the ruling party on whose mandate even pedestrians have made it primarily owing to the charisma associated with the PM Narendra Modi. The concept of communal representation has been done away with in 1947 & its revival in any form shall be not only repugnant to the Constitution but eventually boomeranging on those with motif of one Nation one uniform system ;
3) Going by the reading of Article 170 of the Constitution of India, the provisions of the Delimitation Act 2002 & the J&K Reorganization Act 2019 the inescapable conclusion is that while the average population per Constituency on the basis of total population and the number of seats is the norm for adherence religiously the exception to it is permissible on the basis of ‘’ other factors’’ in relation to the areas as are apart & isolated geographically like Gurez in Distt Bandipora & Karnah in Distt Kupwara which paradigm presently beckons for application to Marwah Wardwan Dacchin & Padder in Kishtwar and Gool in Distt Ramban. Other than the areas already covered in 1995 during the presidential rule in JK by the DC headed by Justice K K Gupta it is the places identified in two Distts of Chenab Valley qualifying for carving out as separate Constituencies by relaxed standardisation of the principle of the average population fixed for each constituency. Under the electoral laws & the systems in vogue the only tiers recognised are Polling Stations, Constituencies, Distts & the States/ UTs with no coverage for administrative Divisions which generally comprise of heterogeneous areas clubbed together for administrative convenience like Jammu in JK. The reason for exclusion of the Divisional tier lay in preventing the disproportionate representation going to the Distts/ natural regions not otherwise entitled because of being compact geographically without any place as inaccessible and forming a separate entity. Since the parameters of ‘’ ‘other factors’’ are not applicable to any part of Jammu & Kashmir excepting to the specified places in Chenab Valley therefore the rhetoric about its application to entire Jammu Division was at best a theatrical endeavour instead of reconciling with the law as it is and repeating the victimhood on imaginary & unfounded grounds. Be it physical development Sector wise instead of budgetary allocations, share in employment and allocation of seats in the legislative Assembly the repeated demands for undoing the self perceived injustice have been ploys employed for preventing the adoption of natural regions as fourth tier in the hierarchy between the State and the Distts and actual physical developmental outputs as the measure for allocation of resources in conformity with the criteria prevalent in Govtt of India for sharing the resources from divisible pool with the States/ UTs and shift from monetary outlays to physical development and growth indexes. The National and State level political parties anchored from Rugnath Bazar & Kineik Mondi are responsible for divide amongst the regions as they suffer from delusion of parity despite representing 21% of the population only without appreciating the demographic and geographic diversities but this time even the local units of otherwise Srinagar centered Political parties didn’t lag behind in oxgenisation of the politics driven by RSS through its frontal organizations and in the process the people day by day pushed to contrary directions needlessly affecting the unity in diversity which at some point of time may trigger unwelcome demands by large sections of society from Chenab Valley and Peer Panchal regions who incidentally are worst sufferers of chasm between the two Divisions as illustrated in Sekri ,Godbolay and Commission headed by Mahmood ur Rehman reports;
4) Equitable distribution sans regard for the population is tantamount to throttling popular representation in favour of lifeless landmass which is without a parallel in any part of the world. By this logic the seats in the Lok Sabah ought to be evenly shared by the Northern, Eastern, Southern ,central& Western parts of the country. After its adoption at national level it can be introduced in the States including J&K. Indeed a new& unique thought in the concept of representation of the people in democratic orders in the world and likely to introduce India as a unique country with unique & distinct democratic setups in which not people but territories are represented in the Parliament and the Assemblies ;
5) The SC population in J&K is 8% and therefore seats to be reserved for the community can’t exceed 07 number of seats from the Constituencies having highest SC population excluding the seats previously reserved on the basis of rotation &
6) At 10% of the ST population there are 09 seats meriting reservation for the community and being maiden initiative the 09 Constituencies in the order of highest ST population are Gurez, Darhal, Kalakot, Mendhar, punch Haveli, Rajouri, Surankot, Gulab Garh, Kangan &Arnas unless as a result of fresh delimitation of the Constituencies these undergo demographic changes. In Punch & Rajouri Distts out of 07 Segments 06 fall under reservation category owing to higher ST population & therefore the need for extending the reservation to next ones in the order of population and as such Kokernag, Nagrota & Bani to substitute for any 02 from the twin Distts of Peer Panchal .
Rhetorical narratives: The eloquence in combination with victimhood related to unrelated regions was common thread in the presentations irrespective of the ground realities and party positions on the basic principles applicable for delimitation on the basis of law applied in the mainland right from 1952 for Lok- Sabah and State Assemblies. The Jammu Distt with population of 1438225 has 11 seats @ average population of 130744 for each Constituency & falls in the category of a compact area with none of the places in the District being inaccessible or facing geographical isolation due to the absence of connectivity or closure of roads for months together due to climatic conditions like in Karnah, Gurez&Marwah Wardwan Dacchin or sparsely populated Gulab Ghar and Arnas. The Distt Kathua provided with 05 seats for population of 616435 @ an average of 123287 persons quite below the J&K average level in recognition of its terrain in upper area
s & a place like Loie Malharqualifying for special categorization for forming as a separate constituency has to be an intra Distt affair as in Baramulla viz Gurez and Kupwara viz Karnah and Kashmir Division viza-a vie Pair Distts of Ladakh under delimitation award of 1995 but yet highly vituperative outbursts from public men though without electoral mandate. It is in Udhampur Distt where the average population per Constituency is highest @ 182585 which qualifies the area for one more seat raising the number to 3+1=4 @ 136938 persons per Constituency. The leadership ought to have holistic perspectives and the same transcending down below at Divisional & Distt levels with responsibility for the middle & lower rung leaders for articulating their respective cases for mapping of the Constituencies only within the framework outlined at J&K level. Notwithstanding the all pervading ambiguous approach at higher levels the outstanding issue specific treatment was quite distinct and visible at Kishtwar where Bashir Ahmad Runyal, Member DDC Ramban, and the duo of G A Saroori & Wakar Rasool wani advanced arguments within the framework of law in its application to the existing delimitation albeit diametrically opposite to each side’s perspectives. In deliberations of Apni Party delegation with the DC at Jammu Syed Ashghar Ali is said to have opposed the accretion of 3rd seat for Kishtwar and the two former bureaucrats Mr Runyal and Mr Ashghar seem to be on same page about retention of existing electoral scenario in all 03 Distts of Chenab Valley seemingly in face of manipulations underway on accord of communal orientation to the process of delimitation in mapping the intra & inter Constituency boundaries but independent analysts favour allocation of at least two seats one each to Doda & Kishtiwar which gains the region should not fritter away. Earlier the presentation made by Dr Jitendra Singh Rana in the meeting of the DC, convened in national Capital, as its associate member gave rise to the misgivings and skepticism primarily due to the uncalled for boycott of the meeting by the remaining 03 associate members who could have rebutted the untenable postulations of Mr Singh being patently against law applicable & precedents followed consecutively in the country which was in tandem exacerbated by unveiling the reckless strategy by JK BJP for delimitation in JK featuring total bias &gerrymandering, whose leadership being a ruling party at National level continues to holdstrings tightly on J&K Government. Under the plan for redrawing the boundaries of the Constituencies the inclusion of Gool was proposed in Banihal constituency having least connectivity with the latter except through Ramban itself & Railway line passing in the areas mostly covered by tunnels without a centralised Passenger Station. Quite apparent motive in the discourse is gerrymandering and same strategy in place for one seat each in Doda, Kishtwar& Rajouri Distts instead of following the compatibility in contiguity and non division of administrative units from Patwar Halquas to the Tehsils and Sub- Divisions. The thematic aspects introduced in the same manner in respect of selection &redrawal boundaries of Constituencies identified for reservations for SCs & STs.The party plan for delimitation sent alarming signals to the opposition political parties who have strong reservations about the neutrality and impartiality of the Administration where couple of bureaucrats in the Distts are alleged to be susceptible to machinations of the ruling party being the products of transfers & postings policy allegedly influenced by Hindutva. Not content with leverage in Jammu & Kashmir Government the composition of the Delimitation Commission also became questionable when after its constitution Chief Electoral officer was transferred & the next incumbent also replaced in the DC by a person who had been appointed as Advisor to the Governor in 2019 immediately after the deoperationalisation of Article 370 unilaterally & later on appointed as Chief Election Commissioner under J&K Panchayat Raj Act on the eve elections to District Development Councils. However the way the DC in its recent meetings in Jammu & Kashmir dispelled the notions harboured by most of the Principal opposition parties about its neutrality it is expected that the rule of law shall not become a causality. The fall- out of the communalism of 1947 continues to haunt us without learning lessons from the gory past and much more from the vistas thrown up for humanity in the contemporary times of European battle fields, enmeshed in ethnic strife, but under the facade of genuine humans the communal &chauvinistic tendencies growing faster and the sooner these are check mated the better otherwise the bleakness awaiting as its ultimate outcome.
(The author is former Chairman of erstwhile J&K State Public Service Commission-J&K SPSC. Views are exclusively his own)