With delimitation over, a look at the slate for J&K 

News: In recent, the Delimitation Commission awards for redrawn map for Jammu and Kashmir’s Assembly has been notified.  

Background 

The State’s Assembly had been dissolved. It was under President’s rule. Thereafter, the State of J&K had been divided into two Union Territories under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. And fresh elections could be held under the J&K Reorganization Act 2019. Therefore, the delimitation of J&K assembly was very important for conducting fresh elections. 

Composition of the Commission 

Apart from Retired Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and J&K State Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma were ex-officio members of the commission. 

Criticism of the commission’s award 

A long list of objections was made against the commission’s draft. But the final report does not summarise the objections nor address them point by point. 

The commission has not explained the methodology based on which it awarded more seats to Jammu province relative to its population than the Valley province having a relatively larger population base. For example, Jammu gained 6 Assembly Seats against 1 seat gained by the Valley Province.  

In fact, the majority of the six new constituencies that are acquired by Jammu are Hindu-majority. Further, one Jammu constituency has a population of just over 50,000 people whereas a Muslim-majority constituency having the same physical features have close to four times its population. 

It did not explain why Jammu’s Muslim-majority seats now comprise less than a quarter of the province’s total seats despite the fact the Muslims comprise over a third of the province’s population. 

The commission’s recommended the President to nominate Pandit migrants to 2 Assembly seats, along the lines of reservation for Anglo-Indians in Parliament. However, it is silent on the nomination for Pandits who live in the Valley and West Pakistani refugees who live in the J&K. 

What is good in the award? 

The commission proposed to match the boundaries of Assembly and parliamentary constituencies. This will ensure that Assembly and parliamentary constituencies match local administrative and police boundaries.  

What are the challenges to the commission’s award? 

Further, the Supreme Court of India is about to hear the challenges to the reorganisation act 2019. In continuation, if the Court decides the challenges are valid, then the delimitation exercise will be nullified. 

The redrawn constituencies may result in greater polarisation of the community and people living in J&K in the next election. It may lead to risk of greater communal violence. 

If the outcome of the J&K Assembly election results reflects a sharp divide between Jammu and the Valley, then it will make it more difficult to put together a coalition administration in the J&K Assembly.  

Way Forward 

The Election Commission should not delay announcing dates for the long overdue Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir as the redrawn constituencies have been notified. 

In order to ensure the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir, there has to be a clean election, speedy restoration of statehood.  

In fact, the commission itself proposed that the report be placed before the legislative assembly. Therefore, let the new Jammu and Kashmir assembly approve or query the delimitation report. 

The government must give attention to fundamental freedoms of over a thousand Kashmiris who are held up in prison under sedition charges. They have been denied bail or asked to furnish punitive sureties.  

Source: The post is based on an article “With delimitation over, a look at the slate for J&K” published in the “The Hindu” on 13th May 2022. 

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