India

On Controversial Plan To Redraw J&K Seats, Final Report Likely

The commission was to redraw 90 assembly seats in Jammu and KashmirSrinagar: The delimitation commission to redraw the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to notify and submit its final report today, sources have said. The term of the commission is ending tomorrow.The draft report of the commission that was made public few…

The commission was to redraw 90 assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar:

The delimitation commission to redraw the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to notify and submit its final report today, sources have said. The term of the commission is ending tomorrow.

The draft report of the commission that was made public few months ago has caused a huge controversy after the opposition alleged gerrymandering to help BJP and turning demographic majority into a political minority in several areas.

The commission has not made any substantial changes, except changing proposed names of some constituencies in the final report.

The proposal had serious discrepancies including geographical continuity and population as the basis for allotting seats.

The commission was to redraw 90 assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir.

The completion of the delimitation process will pave the wave for holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The former state is without an elected government since June 2018.

Home Minister Amit Shah recently said elections would be held in Jammu and Kashmir after completion of the delimitation process.

Political parties have pointed serious flaws in the delimitation process, which may have long-term and serious repercussions for democracy in the region.

For example, while redrawing parliament seats, the commission has merged Poonch and Rajouri districts, which were part of Jammu parliament constituency with Anantnag parliament constituency in south Kashmir.

There is no geographical connectivity and the distance between the two regions is more than 500 km via Jammu. An alternate route – Mughal road via Shopian district – remains closed during winter and opens only in the summer months.

Regional political parties have rejected the delimitation proposal and alleged that boundaries of seats were redrawn only to help BJP achieve its political objectives.

“The delimitation exercise is done for furtherance of BJP agenda. The commission has shown no regard to law and Constitution. Particularly, the majority community, be it in Rajouri, Kashmir or Chinab valley have been disempowered. In a sense they have been disenfranchised,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said after the draft report was made public.

The commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, is redrawing 90 assembly and five parliament seats in Jammu and Kashmir. The commission had first come under criticism in December after It proposed allotment six more assembly seats to Jammu region against just one for Kashmir valley, despite Kashmir having a higher population. The draft report had serious discrepancies, the opposition has said.

Take the example of Kishtwar district having 2.3 lakh population – 40 per cent Hindus and 57 per cent Muslims. The district had two assembly seats – both Muslim majority. As per the draft proposal, three seats have been allotted to the district – two of them carved out as Hindu-majority seats.

Similarly in Doda district having over four lakh population, 45 per cent is Hindu; earlier it had two seats – both Muslim majority. Now two out three seats are Hindu majority constituencies.

The electoral representation of Muslims in Jammu province has also drastically come down. From 13 Muslim majority assembly seats to just 10 seats even as the number of total assembly seats in Jammu has risen from 37 seats to 43 assembly seats in the delimitation process.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the census 2011 had to be the basis of delimitation, but the commission eventually said that it would also take into account political aspirations of various sections of society and factor in accessibility, topography and proximity to the border as part of consideration to allot seats. But even those considerations appear to have been used selectively.

Another example: The border district of Poonch, which often bears the brunt of hostility from Pakistan, has a population that is twice that of Kishtwar district. But Poonch has only three assembly seats. Surankote assembly seat in Poonch has a population of 1.88 lakh, compared to 51,000 in Paddar seat in Kishtwar district.

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