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Bonhomie between J&K’s arch political rivals

Post by on Thursday, January 13, 2022

First slide

Earlier a bonhomie in the recent past between the two arch political rivals was witnessed in May 2019 when Omar Abdullah retweeted Mehbooba Mufti’s comments, saying he had never thought he would retweet her comments. “And I never thought I’d be retweeting anything you said while agreeing with you. Politics truly is a strange world. Good luck for the battle ahead. Once again the wisdom of the people will prevail,” Omar wrote while retweeting Mufti’s tweets.



Although in a recent public outreach programmes a leader from the National Conference (NC) party had said that that the present situation was an outcome of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule in J&K, saying that PDP was responsible for splitting J&K and ‘it was the dream of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to “sell” Kashmir’.


However, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti had directed it’s leaders not to react so as to avoid any damage to Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).


Pertinent to mention that PAGD was formed to push for the reversal of the 5 Aug,2019 decision.


Notably, PAGD of which both the parties are major allies had announced to hold a protest over the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission.


Reports over Delimitation Commission 

With the reports of Delimitation Commission proposing to increase six seats for the Jammu division and one for the Kashmir division, the move has evoked sharp reactions and anguish from the region’s mainstream political parties. Despite the arch rivalry among each other, major political parties have echoed in one voice over the recommendations saying the move is divisive for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.


While this will be for the first time that the PAGD and their political opponents like Peoples Conference and Apni Party too have echoed the same voice over the recommendations, the accusations and blaming is witnessing a considerable drop ,other than blaming each other during their public outreach programmes and some interviews with media institutions. 


Peoples Conference President Sajad Gani Lone on Saturday criticized the J&K administration for foiling the PAGD protest against the Delimitation Commission.


"Can't see any valid reason why the state administration should stop political parties from protesting," Sajad Lone said, adding “Isn’t right to protest intrinsic to the concept of a vibrant democracy. Not being critical. But state administration really needs to reassess and reevaluate.


Commissioned to the fixing of limits or boundaries of Assembly or parliamentary constituencies in a country or province having a legislative body. The exercise basically redraws the scope and size of segments and determines the number of seats to be reserved for Scheduled Castes. This is a process which is usually carried out every few years in order to ensure that every constituency has a similar number of voters.


Delimitation in J&K 

After the abrogation of J&K’s special status in Aug 2019, on March 6, 2020 the government set up the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, which was tasked with winding up delimitation in J&K in a year, however was accorded extension in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown imposed in India in the year 2020.


Apart from Desai, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K State Election Commissioner K K Sharma are the ex-officio members of the delimitation panel. That apart, the panel has five associate members: National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh, and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP. However the commission is yet to submit it’s final report to the government and is likely to submit the report in March 2022.


The Delimitation Commission has for the first time proposed to reserve nine seats for Scheduled Tribes (STs). This is in addition to seven seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) candidates and 24 seats for Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).


By proposing to reserve seats for STs, the Commission has created a new political block of “Gujjars and Bakarwals’’ among the majority Muslims of Kashmir Valley. Gujjars and Bakarwals, who are Muslims, are the third major ethnic group after Kashmiris and Dogras in J&K.


How political parties react over recommendations


Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Vice President of the region's old mainstream political party NC, Omar Abdullah, expressed dissatisfaction over the draft recommendation of the J&K delimitation commission and said it is unacceptable.


Another former Chief Minister and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said the "real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimise the illegal & unconstitutional decisions of August 2019".


Sajad Lone termed the recommendations of the delimitation commission as, “reek of bias" and ‘shock for those who believe in democracy’.


Apni Party Jammu and Kashmir President, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari termed the recent proposal of Delimitation Commission not in sync with the census 2011, and said the proposal is totally unacceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.


Expert opine


Former Law Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Mohamad Ashraf said that one constituency has been carved out for 1,25,082 people in Jammu Division.

 “One constituency has been carved out for 1,25,082 people in Jammu Division. For the Kashmir Division, the same constituency has been established for 1,46,563 people. In effect 10,09,621 people of the valley have been disenfranchised”.

While the Commission is led by former judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra Sharma and State Election Commissioner (SEC) KK Sharma, legal experts say that the delimitation process does not have set rule book to create new or redraw existing constituencies. In fact, it is dependent on the opinion of the members of this commission.


The experts further add that with no legislative assembly in J&K, five members of parliament of which three are from National Conference and two are from BJP, which have been nominated as associate members of the Commission, the members don’t have any voting rights.


While the NC is thinking of challenging it’s legal sanctity, according to the experts there is no way to challenge the decisions of the delimitation commission.   


PAGD on commission recommendations


The PAGD has decided to collectively challenge the Delimitation Commission report in the Supreme Court if it was finalized in the present form despite objections given by three NC MPs, who are Associate Members of the Commission as well as part of the PAGD. 



Legal binding of commission orders

Soon after the reports of proposed recommendations by the Delimitation Commission, Kashmir’s region’s mainstream political parties expressed anguish over the recommendations stating the move as unacceptable. The PAGD has decided to collectively challenge the Delimitation Commission report in the Supreme Court.


Notably, the job of delimitation is given to a commission called the Delimitation Commission, a body whose orders are legally binding and cannot be questioned in any court of law, according to the Election Commission. While copies of the orders can be laid before Parliament and the concerned State Legislative Assembly, neither can suggest any modifications or the formation of a new delimitation commission who can make modifications which is unlikely to happen.



Last Delimitation Commission in J&K

The Last Delimitation Commission was set up in 1994 with Justice (Retd) K K Gupta as its Chairman when the State was under the President’s rule. The Gupta Commission had increased J&K’s Assembly seats from 76 to the present 87. Of 76 seats, Jammu had 32, Kashmir 42 and Ladakh 2. Of 87 seats of J&K Assembly, Kashmir has 46 seats, Jammu 37 and four in the Ladakh division.


What does 2011 Census say


According to the 2011 census, the population of Kashmir Valley was 68,88,475 with 96.40% Muslims. Jammu division had a population of 53,78,538, with 62. 55 % Hindus , 33.45 % Muslims while Ladakh region has 2,74,289 people residing there, 46.40% of them Muslims, 12.11% Hindus and 39.67% Buddhists.


Notably the Commission earlier in the year 2021 in the month of June said that the Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir will be conducted on the basis of the 2011 Census and the final draft will be prepared after taking all demands and recommendations into account.

During a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner of India Sushil Chandra said, "The first full-fledged delimitation commission was formed in 1981 which could submit its recommendation after 14 years in 1995. It was based on the 1981 census. Thereafter, no delimitation has taken place."


"In 2020, the delimitation was constituted to carry on the exercise on the basis of 2011 Census as per Section 62 of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. Twenty four seats of the legislative assembly of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir shall remain vacant and the said area shall be excluded in delimiting the territorial constituency as provided under part V of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019," Mr Chandra said.

"Taking all the demands and recommendations into account, a draft will be prepared and put in the public domain for their comments. After seeing all the comments, the final draft (on Delimitation exercise) will be prepared," he said.

"If something was decided earlier then the Commission would not have come here. Nothing has been pre-planned so far. Before starting the exercise, we want to have the views of all persons. These apprehensions in the mind of any person, if at all, should go away," he added.


What will happen now?

Once associate members' suggestions are considered, the reworked draft delimitation proposal will be placed in the public domain for objections. Public hearings may be held by the panel in Jammu and Srinagar, followed by the final delimitation award.

The completion of the delimitation exercise in the Valley is considered to be a go ahead signal for the resumption of the political process in Jammu and Kashmir, paving way for elections to be held in the Union Territory which has been under Centre's rule since June 2018.

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