“Aim to disempower Kashmir,” Why Delimitation Commission’s draft report stirs controversy in restive region

Members of the Delimitation Commission of JK during a press conference. | Photo: Daily Excelsior

The political parties under the banner of People Alliance for Gupkar declaration (PAGD) expressed their dismay over the draft report of the commission and alleged that the exercise seems to be carried out to serve BJP’s “political agenda” in the region. 

Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net

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SRINAGAR – The recently released draft report by the Delimitation Commission of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been met with “disdain and anger” in the restive region, with pro-India politicians in Kashmir expressing resentment against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government at the Center. 

The political parties under the banner of People Alliance for Gupkar declaration (PAGD) expressed their dismay over the draft report of the commission and alleged that the exercise seems to be carried out to serve BJP’s “political agenda” in the region. 

PAGD is an electoral alliance between several regional political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and was formed after the abrogation of article 370. The alliance seeks restoration of Article 370.

The BJP led government set up a commission in February 2020 after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill in parliament in August 2019. The commission was tasked with redrawing parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the union territory.

The Commission was headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and includes the Chief Election Commissioner and state election commissioners. 

The commission in its draft report to the government suggested six new legislative seats for Jammu—a Hindu dominated region and only one for Kashmir—a Muslim majority region.

Earlier, Jammu had 37 seats, Kashmir 46 seats and Ladakh 4 seats. As per the proposal, Kashmir will have 47 seats and Jammu 43. 

However, the move is being viewed in Kashmir as an attempt to create a wedge between regional and community lines in the region. 

The PAGD has termed the report as a “slur” and something that was unacceptable and has called for a protest on January 1, 2022, against what it termed “biased and divisive proposal of delimitation panel.”

However, the BJP unit of J&K maintained that the delimitation commission worked with “dedication and transparency” and that it was for the first time that Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste categories have got their due rights.

Addressing a press conference in Jammu party headquarters, BJP J&K President Ravinder Raina said that the “people of Jammu and Kashmir are aware of the political motives of PAGD now and no one is going to support them.”

Asked why there was only one seat to Kashmir and six to Jammu, Raina said that “J&K was one and there was no Kashmir and Jammu as it was about “J&K”.

However political pundits and analysts in Kashmir see the report as a “long time agenda” of BJP and RSS of turning the Muslim majority state into a Hindu majority.

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a political analyst from Kashmir told TwoCircles.net that the whole exercise which started in 2019 was aimed at disempowering Kashmir and Kashmiris. 

“The delimitation exercise was a step towards that,” he said. 

He said the delimitation was to be done in the year 2026 but the BJP preponed it to make sure that Kashmir and the Muslim belt of J&K are somehow disempowered. 

It may be noted that BJP has made several statements where they claim that the J&K will have a Hindu Chief Minister in the coming elections. 

“So the exercise is aimed at that,” Showkat noted.

National Conference’s rebel leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi argues that the BJP is “polarising” the region and the delimitation commission’s report is the proof.

“Whatever is happening is being done on communal lines. They (BJP) are pitching one community with another,” Mehdi told TwoCircles.net.

Interestingly, Mehdi is the only politician who has been repeatedly calling out to his party men and other politicians not to succumb before New Delhi.

While slamming his party National Conference for participating in the delimitation process, Mehdi said their participation meant to legitimize the decision that was taken on 5 August 2019.

On December 20, National Conference President and MP Farooq Abdullah attended the meeting and confirmed the draft proposal.

The meeting was attended by two BJP MPs — Jugal Kishore and Dr Jitendra Singh — and three MPs from the National Conference — Farooq Abdullah, Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone. The meeting was held at Ashok Hotel in Delhi.

A picture of two MP’s meeting the BJP leaders at Ashok Hotel went viral on social media prompting the other political parties to corner the National Conference.

NC MPs meeting with BJP’s Singh in New Delhi.

However, NC’s vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah said it is deeply disappointing that the commission appears to have “allowed the political agenda of the BJP.”

“The draft recommendation of the J&K delimitation commission is unacceptable. The distribution of newly created assembly constituencies with 6 going to Jammu & only 1 to Kashmir is not justified by the data of the 2011 census,” Omar said in a series of tweets.

“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 its only consideration. Contrary to the promised “scientific approach” it’s a political approach,” he added.

Another former chief minister and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said the “real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimize the illegal & unconstitutional decisions of August 2019.”

“My apprehensions about the Delimitation Commission were not misplaced. They want to pitch people against each other by ignoring the population census & proposing 6 seats for one region & only one for Kashmir,” she said in a tweet.

“This commission has been created simply to serve BJPs political interests by dividing people along religious & regional lines. The real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimize the illegal & unconstitutional decisions of August 2019,” she added.

Soon after the report, the PAGD under the leadership of Farooq Abdullah met and discussed the current situation.

M. Y. Tarigami, the spokesman of PAGD, said that abrogation of Article 35-A and 370 in Jammu and Kashmir was unconstitutional and a step was taken without taking into confidence the stakeholders from Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.

PAGD further claimed that Dr Farooq Abdullah of NC and other members of the commission reiterated in the meeting of the commission that the proposal is not as per the wishes and interests of people and is just a step to create a wedge on a regional and community basis.

“This is part of agenda of BJP to divide people,” PAGD leaders said, saying that “the draft if implemented is set to create a further wedge between JK and New Delhi.”

Meanwhile, the PAGD members said that the conglomerate will hold a peaceful protest on January 1, 2022, in Kashmir against the proposal.

However, Mehdi maintains that the political parties should think of a “long term solution” rather than short term.

“Our fight should have for the restoration of our special status not short term benefits like elections, delimitation etc,” Mehdi said, adding that the only way to get “our rights” back is to follow the path of the farmers—who managed to withdraw the three farm bills. 

Mehdi said the delimitation was done to benefit BJP in elections. “The “divide” will be dangerous for the region which has a history of upholding communal harmony for decades,” he added. 

Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed.