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Why Kashmir parties claim ‘Hindu bias’ in delimitation proposal, which adds 6 seats in Jammu

According to ThePrint's analysis of the 6 proposed constituencies in Jammu region, 2 are Hindu-dominated, 1 is predominantly Muslim, and 3 have mixed demographic profile.

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New Delhi: Political parties in the Kashmir Valley are outraged by the draft proposal of the Delimitation Commission, which has suggested adding six new assembly seats for the Jammu region and only one for Kashmir. According to these parties, this is a “ploy” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to enhance its own prospects in the union territory of J&K.

The Delimitation Commission draft has proposed seven additional assembly seats for Jammu and Kashmir, increasing Jammu’s tally by six, to 43 from 37, and Kashmir’s by one to 47. The total number of assembly constituencies is now 90.

Regional parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC), have protested that the Delimitation Commission has not only “ignored the principle of population” while carving out the new constituencies, it has also “helped the BJP increase the Hindu footprint” in J&K. BJP leaders, however, deny these allegations.

Delimitation has always been a fraught issue in J&K since it impacts the representation of Muslim-dominated Kashmir and Hindu-dominated Jammu in the legislative assembly.

Taking a close look at the six additional constituencies in Jammu division — one each in Kathua, Samba, Rajouri, Reasi, Doda and Kishtwar — ThePrint found that two regions are Hindu dominated, one has a predominantly Muslim population, and three have a mixed demographic profile.

According to data from the 2011 Census, Kathua and Samba have a Hindu population of 87.6 per cent and 86.33 per cent respectively, while in Reasi, 62.7 per cent of the people are Muslim. Doda has 45.77 per cent Hindus and 53.82 per cent Muslims, while in Kishtwar, there are 40.72 per cent Hindus and 57.75 per cent Muslims.

Moreover, although Jammu occupies more land area in the UT, Kashmir’s population (68.8 lakh) is considerably higher than Jammu’s (53.5 lakh).

Also Read: What is delimitation and why it is so crucial and controversial in J&K

Criteria questioned

Political parties in the Valley have questioned the criteria used by the Delimitation Commission to carve out the additional constituencies and believe that the exercise will “further divide the population”.

The PDP, NC, Communist Party of India-Marxist or CPI(M), and Apni Party have claimed that population should be the most important parameter for deciding a constituency, while BJP leaders have argued that “geography, topography and remoteness of the area” should also be factored in.

Altaf Bukhari from Apni Party told ThePrint that this draft is “flawed” as it “completely ignores the “principal of population”.

“The exercise of delimitation has to be based on the universal principle of population. All these areas where extra constituencies have been carved out have a small population,” he said. “Moreover, the resources of one constituency are limited. The resources for both — a constituency with less people and one with more people — will be the same. How is this fair?” he said.

Speaking to ThePrint, Zafar Chaudhary, a political analyst from Jammu, said Kashmir has about 15 lakh more people than Jammu.

“If the delimitation was based on population, Kashmir would have got 51 seats instead of 47 and Jammu would have got 39 seats instead of 43,” he said. “However, the area of Jammu is more than that of Kashmir. While Jammu occupies 62 per cent of J&K, Kashmir is 38 per cent,” Chaudhary said.

Hasnain Masoodi from the National Conference also questioned the criteria used by the commission.

“The question is, what criteria have they followed to come to this conclusion? If you cannot rely on the 2011 Census, then wait for the 2026 Census… Let us decide the seats based on the census statistics,” he said.

Naeem Akhtar of the PDP also said that the only criteria for delimitation should be the population. “If the land or the area is kept as the parameter, then Ladakh will have more constituencies than either Jammu or Kashmir. In terms of population, Kashmir has more people than Jammu, and so the constituencies here should be more,” he said.

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami of the CPI(M) said the commission’s proposals encouraged divisiveness.

“The ratio of any constituency in terms of number of voters is bigger in Kashmir. By doing this, they are putting one region and one religion against the other. Why divide people further and put their unity at stake just for a few seats? Give us the statistics based on which this proposal has been made,” he said.

Tarigami added that the Delimitation Commission was constituted under the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, which the CPI(M) has challenged in the Supreme Court, which is why the party will “never accept” the draft proposal.

In a statement, the commission also said it was proposing to carve out an additional constituency in some districts to “balance the representation for geographical areas with inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences given their excessive remoteness or inhospitable conditions on the international border”.

According to Chaudhary, the parameters of geography and topography may have been used in the past, but proximity to the border as a criterion was “unique” and  “unheard of”.

Looking at the past, there is no other example of Delimitation Commissions using these parameters for this exercise. If this is to be applied in other contexts, Rajasthan and Punjab will end up getting more Lok Sabha seats than UP,”  Chaudhary said.

Speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, a political leader from Jammu said population alone cannot be the criteria for delimitation. “The leaders in Kashmir are crying foul only because it suits them. The geography, topography, how remote the place is, how much time it takes for residents to reach their MLA — all these are considered,” this leader said.

“The land mass in Jammu is mountainous and the area is much larger than Kashmir. The terrain is tough, the distances are a lot, communication is less, which is why to empower the individuals to exercise his or her franchise, this decision was important,” he added.

Notably, the Delimitation Act of 2002, states that all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be geographically compact areas, and in delimiting them, “physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience” have to be considered.

The question of ‘increasing Hindu votes’

While some political leaders in Kashmir have alleged that the delimitation exercise has been done with an “agenda” to increase Hindu seats, the BJP has dismissed these accusations as misplaced.

Naeem Akhtar of the PDP told ThePrint that the idea behind this exercise is to “add more Hindu-dominated constituencies”. By doing this, he said, the committee is “disfranchising the largest minority in the country” and ensuring that there will be fewer Muslim MLAs.

A political leader in Jammu, however, said allegations about trying to increase the Hindu footprint in the UT were “lies”.

“Jammu, which has a high Hindu population, does not have a single additional seat. That is because it does not meet the parameter of the topography or terrain or accessibility. In Kishtwar, 70 per cent of the population is Muslim and only 30 per cent is Hindu — then why was it given a seat? Even Rajouri is Muslim-dominated. This allegation is misplaced and a lie,” the leader said.

This report has been updated to include another quote by Zafar Chaudhary.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)


Also Read: Repeal of Article 370 ended partition sentiment in J&K. Will make peaceful integration possible


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