IIOJK’s demographic change


The notification of Jammu and Kashmir’s new electoral boundaries by the Delimitation Commission has revived fears that the unconstitutional exercise will effect demographic change and disempower the people of the union territory. According to the notification, seven additional constituencies have been added to the J&K assembly. While the assembly constituencies in Jammu, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s stronghold, have increased from 37 to 43 with the addition of six new seats, the number of seats in Kashmir has gone up only one notch, from 46 to 47. This is despite the fact that Jammu’s population is only 53 lakh, around 15 lakh less than the Kashmir Valley’s population of approximately 68 lakh, according to the 2011 Census.
In the revised electoral map drawn by the delimitation panel, the average population of an assembly constituency in the Muslim-majority Kashmir will be 1.4 lakh, while it will be only 1.2 lakh in Jammu, which is the bastion of the saffron party. It will disempower the people of Kashmir. The three-member panel headed by Supreme Court worked beyond its mandate to propose sweeping changes which will alter the demography of J&K. The voting rights for J&K assembly were restricted to only permanent residents (before Article 370 was read down) but the commission has now extended them to non-state subjects. In the long run, this exercise is bound to disempower the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The commission was an extension of the BJP, as it shelved the parameter of population while redrawing the constituencies. The commission is part of the (BJP’s) agenda to curb the rights and disempower the people of Jammu and Kashmir after Article 370 was read down. The very existence of the delimitation commission is constitutionally suspected. Nevertheless, people deserve to get equal rights and representation. Unfortunately, it has not happened. The commission has completely ignored the important and only parameter of population in the exercise.
The people of J&K will never accept the report of the delimitation commission; the commission’s recommendation of adding six assembly seats to Jammu region and only one seat to Kashmir smacks of its predetermined erroneous assessment of the situation, as commission is playing the nefarious game in tandem with the Union government. It is still possible for the Union government to consult the J&K’s mainstream political class at its (sic) earliest. The people of Jammu and Kashmir State would give their calm reflection to the report, appreciate its implications and express themselves strongly, but democratically and peacefully.
The commission has also created a trans Pir Panjal Lok Sabha constituency by merging assembly segments of Anantnag district in Kashmir with those of Poonch and Rajouri district, which were earlier part of the Jammu Lok Sabha constituency, effectively diminishing the representation of Kashmir Valley in the parliament, according to political observers. Although the move betrays the crucial parameter of geography and connectivity, as laid down in the Delimitation Act for drawing any electoral constituency, the commission said that it sees Jammu & Kashmir as a single entity.
By this reorganisation, each Parliamentary constituency will have equal number of 18 Assembly Constituencies each. The commission, which was set up in May 2020 and got two extensions, has also reserved nine assembly constituencies for Scheduled Tribes and seven seats for Scheduled Castes.