FRAGRANCE OF IDEAS
Consequent upon the recommendations made by the Delimitation Commission of India in regard to the displaced community of Kashmir on 5th May 2022, the ball is invariably now in the court of the government of India. It is for the government of India to take an appropriate decision in this regard. The way the whole struggle for the desired goals was spearheaded by the bunch of leaders, intellectuals and the activists of the community has left an indelible and important mark. Their relentless and objective campaign for the last two years has brought its fruits forth. The recommendations made by the Commission besides being an achievement are also historic and path breaking. It also sets a precedence for future.
It would be in order to bring into the public domain some excerpts from the full five-page chapter on Recommendations contained in the report. These recommendations were made in favour of the displaced community of Kashmir by the Delimitation Commission, the constitutional body and an important organ of the State of India, in its published report titled "Delimited landscape of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory" on the whole subject of Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir-2022. The important excerpts are as follows:
"During the public hearings, Kashmiri migrants voiced their grievances. Some of them addressed representations to the Commission. The gist of their submissions needs to be stated. They inter alia urged that they have been living in exile for the last more than three decades. Kashmiri Migrants are original inhabitants of Jammu & Kashmir but they have been very unfairly dealt with. It was submitted that they were forced to leave their ancestral homeland. They were persecuted and forced to live in exile as refugees in their own country. They are scattered across the length and breadth of India and even outside India. Circumstances drove them to flee Kashmir. They find themselves bereft of their sense of belonging and well known identity. It was pointed out that Kashmiri Migrants who made immense contribution to social, religious and political life of India are today facing existential threat. Nothing was done to stop their exodus from Kashmir. Due to all such factors Kashmiri Migrants are politically unrepresented. Unless they get proper political representation, they will not regain their lost status and rightful place in their homeland Jammu & Kashmir. It was urged that in order to preserve their political rights, seats may be reserved for them in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and in Parliament........"
".......It bears repetition to state that the Kashmiri Migrants have relied on the above judgments (narrated by them in their presentations) and submitted that seats may be reserved for their representatives in the Legislative Assembly and in Parliament or the Government may be directed to nominate persons from Kashmiri Migrants category to the Legislative Assembly and to Parliament. We find substance in the grievances of the Kashmiri Migrants. Their plight is unparalled.
However, it is not possible for us to reserve seats for them or direct the Government to nominate their representatives to the Legislative Assembly or to Parliament. This exercise does not fall within the purview of our mandate. Law does not confer such power on us. Besides in both the above mentioned cases there were clear constitutional or statutory provisions empowering Government to reserve seats or nominate persons to the Legislative Assembly. Such legal provisions are absent here. Unless there is a statutory base no such exercise can be conducted.
In sum, though we are impressed by the submissions of Kashmiri Migrants, existing statutory provisions do not assist us in providing any succor to this extremely genuine case. However, we feel it appropriate to recommend to the Government for its sympathetic consideration the following:
(i) Provision of at least two members (one of them must be a female) from the community of Kashmiri Migrants in the Legislative Assembly.
(ii) Such members may be given power at par with the power of nominated members, of the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Puducherry".
It is now very clear that the government of India has to act on the report and the recommendations both. After the earlier prouncements of the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Minorities, J&K High Court and Delhi High Court in favour of the exiled community of Kashmir, it is now that the Delimitation Commission of India ( Election Commission being its part) has come out openly in favour of the Kashmir displaced people. The government needs to translate the recommendations made by the Delimitation Commission into a reality.
This author had been consistently saying that the process of delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir will test the intent of the State of India in regard to the Kashmiri Pandits. Since the Delimitation Commission and the Election Commission of India are very important two organs of the State of India, therefore, the Delimitation Commission Report coupled with the recommendations made by it to the government of India are an ample proof of the fact that the State of India hasn't failed in respect of Kashmiri Pandits, this time. The recommendations have, undoubtedly, empowered the government of India and the Parliament of India to take big strides eventually in this context to empower the community of Kashmiri Pandits, the children of lesser gods.
I well remember the words of the Chairperson, Justice (Retd.) Ranjana Desai when she told us in our first official meeting with them in Delhi last year in March that 'your presentation has a substance and we will need certain more documents'. It definitely reflected the sense of purpose of the Delimitation Commission of India, however, it had to exhibit its intent too. Our delegation was candid enough every time regarding our resolve to get the concerns of the Kashmiri Pandits, the persecuted class of citizens who are forced to live as refugees in their own country, registered and recognised.
It would be perfectly in order here to dwell upon the recommendations made by the Commission in order to take the discourse ahead. The Commission has categorically said that 'provisions be made for at least two members from the community of Kashmiri migrants........' for nominations to the Assembly. We would appeal to the government that five members may be nominated including one from the female category and the other from the Kashmiri Sikh community. Likewise, three members from the PoJK displaced people may also be nominated alongwith.
In the Puducherry case, there are 3 nominated members with voting powers in the Assembly and the provision and procedure both have been upheld by the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court respectively. There are 30 elected MLAs in the House of Puducherry. On the basis of the proportionate equation, the J&K Assembly can have a total of nine to ten nominated members in a house of 90 elected members. The total nominated members can be like this: Women members: 2, Kashmiri Pandits: 4 (one female), PoJK: 3 and Kashmiri Sikhs: 1. Thus with this total of 10 nominated members, the effective strength of the Legislative Assembly of J&K would be 100.
Since the government is required to take the recommendations of the Commission to their logical conclusion, it would be in order to make amendments in the laws of the land in the parliament in this connection. This can happen when the report and recommendations made by the Commission are tabled on the floor of the House. This is possible in the ensuing Monsoon session of the parliament. Therefore, it becomes important to take this battle of struggle to the next level, i.e. to the PMO, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary affairs.
While concluding, it needs to be mentioned that well begun is half done. The Commission also has a moral responsibility to ensure that its report and recommendations see the light of the day. For Kashmiri Pandits and the PoJK refugees, it is surely a history in making that their representatives will have to pursue up to the last. However, we lastly thank the Delimitation Commission for providing us a strong platform to take our march ahead in this connection. It is now for the government headed by our beloved Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to realise the objectives set by the hon'ble Delimitation Commission.
(The author is a senior BJP and KP leader, author and columnist and can be reached at email@example.com)