The hegemonistic leaders of the Kashmir Valley have managed to hijack the collective political conscience of Jammu and Ladakh people for so long that right time has arrived to break the stranglehold of the Valley leaders
Imagine the whole nation is up in arms against Article 370 and 35A. However, most us are not aware that there is something equally important, if not more important, than these provisions of Constitution which has led to abject marginalisation and subjugation of one region of state over another. The dominance of one region over the other and the idea of supremacy and exclusivity have led to these damaging times.
People in queues at a polling station in J&K’s Ganderbal
Today we are talking about DELIMITATION OF ELECTORAL CONSTITUENCIES in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the scope it carries in addressing majority of the ills the entire State is suffering from. We firmly believe that the discrimination caused by holding up ‘Delimitation’ has caused collossal marginalisation of one region and exceedingly benefited the other.
Even though Delimitation was done under Justice K K Gupta commission constituted in 1995, that commission could not address the biases rooted in political demography of the State
Before we express ourselves on this aspect of marginalisation it is imperative to understand what ‘Delimitation’ is.
In simpler terms, Delimitation means the drawing of boundaries. The boundaries may be domestic, national and International, but the most general use of this term is in context with electoral boundaries Article 82 of the Constitution of India makes provision for delimitation of the electoral boundaries.
Under Article 82, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. And once the Delimitation Act comes into force, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission. This Commission demarcates the boundaries of the Parliamentary Constituences or Assembly Constituencies as per provisions of the Delimitation Act.
What appears as normal exercise in the rest of India is always loaded with biases and preferences in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Right from Independence one region has been continuously favoured and pampered in preference to the other.
The first gory act of step motherly treatment was committed in 1957 when the Valley based State Government arbitrarily allocated just 30 seats to Jammu region and 43 seats to Kashmir region.
Noteworthy to understand in year 1951 census could not take place. However, the figures given by the census department are the authentic means of census conducted in 1941 and 1961. In the year 1951, Kashmir Region had a population of 15,11,864 while Jammu Region had 14,58,584 inhabitants. The difference of the population was just 82,340. Of the 75 seats of the Legislative Assembly, 43 seats were fraudulently allocated to the Kashmir Valley, 30 to Jammu and 2 to Ladakh. What was the basis?
In the census of 1961, Kashmir Region had a population of 18,99,438 while Jammu Region had 15,728,87 inhabitants. The difference of the population was 3,26,551. There were again 43 Assembly Constituencies for Kashmir Region and 30 for Jammu Region, but the discrimination was purposely allowed to continue. Interestingly, nothing explains the difference of 13 seats between Jammu & Kashmir regions even after the census was conducted. Moving onto the census of 1981, Kashmir Region had a population of 31,34,904 while Jammu Region had 27,18,113 inhabitants. The difference of the population was 4,16,791. There were still 43 Assembly Constituencies for Kashmir Region and 30 for Jammu Region in the election held in year 1983.
Thus the disparity and abjectmarginalisation continues. Even though delimitation was done under Justice KK Gupta commission constituted in year 1995, even this commission could not address the biases rooted in political demography of the State. Justice Gupta had 11 seats at his disposal but he only gave 5 seats to Jammu, thus widening the gap of disparity. Thus the state of Jammu and Kashmir has 87 seats for which elections are held. Out of these 87 seats, 46 seats belong to Kashmir Valley, 37 seats to Jammu region and 4 seats to Ladakh region.
The 1996, 2002 and 2008 and 2014 Legislative elections were held as per the delimitation done by KK Gupta Commission. It is important to know that the last delimitation in State took place 25 years ago. Viewers should also note that the last Delimitation took place during Governor’s rule in the State.
We encounter a strange facet and trend in growth of population of two regions right since 1951. The difference which was slated to be at just 82,340 in 1951 rose to a difference of 10,45,628 in 2001 census and then jumped to 1,50,9937 in 2011 census. This Himalayan increase in the difference in population growth is asymmetrical to various connected triggers. Jammu having seen maximum displacement of migrant population ideally should have more population than Kashmir.
After analysing various aspects of this asymmetrical surge in population of one region, we came across a very peculiar aspect. The floating population of Gujjars and Bakerwals, which stays in Jammu region during harsher climate and winter months and shift to area falling under Kashmir regions during hot summer months, holds the key to this surge in population.
As per 2011 census, the total population of Schedule Tribes stood at 14,93,299 which makes up nearly 12% of the total population of the State. In blatant disregard to the floating nature of this huge population, the census records this 12% population in Kashmir region when this portion of population lives in both the regions. Understanding the irony further even though Constitution has accorded reservation to the ST population of the State in jobs and other fields, no seats are reserved for them in the Assembly. It is ironical that nearly 12% of the total population of the State have not been granted any political reservation but the benefits of electoral demography are duly relished by the hegemonic Kashmir region in terms of unbridled say in governance and other state of affairs. It is the valley-based political parties who never wished seat reservation to happen as it is seen as a direct threat to their hegemony considering ST population of state are not recognised as ethnic Kashmiri race.
The other glaring and thought-provoking issue lies in the acclaimed presence of nearly 2 lakh Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir region. The census of 2011 claimed that 1,95,190 Hindus were living in Kashmir region and a break up to this Census report district wise is provided for the reference of readers here. Intriguingly, a majority of Hindu community has left the Valley in the year between 1989-90 with the onset of militancy and are currently living in Jammu and elsewhere. Whatever the little number of Kashmiri Hindus present in valley can never be beyond a few thousand in number, even if we include the PM Package employees currently serving in valley. Census of 2001 claims the presence of 1,00,962 Hindus which doubled in 2011 with 1,95,190 people. We can thus safely assume that there are nearly 3 lakh Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir region. This number is not only huge but disconnected with reality on ground. As per Ministry of Home Affairs data, there are nearly 62,000 registered Kashmir Migrant families out of which about 40,000 families are registered in Jammu, 20,000 registered in Delhi and 2,000 in other parts of India. The claim of Census department falls flat over logic and reason considering Census is only conducted after physical validation.
We have no intent to challenge the Census conducted in the State. However, such examples raise serious eyebrows about the intent and purpose of keeping one region perpetually superior over the other in terms of all the resources which eventually become a yard stick of decision-making process.
Till now, we have explained just one facet of the step-motherly treatment intended to keep Jammu region under perpetual servitude. Moving further, we now need to understand how the interests of Jammu region are being damaged by Valley-based political parties in the electoral demography of this State.
To explain the biases and need for delimitation further, we have picked out a few more samples to establish it. The first sample relates to the number of electors and the average number of electors in each region since 1987 assembly elections.
In 2014 assembly election, Jammu region had 33,39,259 electors and Kashmir region had 37,59,108 electors. Connected with this, Kashmir had an average of 81,719 electors per assembly constituency and Jammu had 90,250 electors per constituency. Thus in last election the difference in average number electors per constituency was nearly 10,000 between Jammu and Kashmir regions with Jammu having more average number than Kashmir.
The difference in number of electors per constituency is on surge ever since elections took place in this state. In the snippet data since 1987 which you are seeing right now, it can be clearly seen that Average number in Jammu region constituencies has always been on spiral path and more than Kashmir region constituencies.
Clubbed with this we need to know that Scheduled Castes have been granted reservation in Legislative Assembly. Seven Assembly constituencies have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the State Assembly in the House of 87 however they have remained unchanged for record fourth consecutive term in 2014 Assembly elections. Under the normal practice, the reserved Assembly seats had to rotate after every two or a maximum of three terms. All seven reserved Assembly seats fall in Jammu region, the maximum being three in Jammu district and one each in Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Ramban districts.
Thus the treatment meted out to Scheduled Tribes by snatching their due rights of reservation in Assembly by reserving assembly constituencies and the blatantly unlawful treatment with Scheduled Castes by confining their reserved seats to Jammu region only speak volumes about the hegemony of Valley-based political parties over Jammu.
Coming to another glaring act of ascendancy and dominance which we believe is enough to nip the hegemony of Kashmir-based political parties over Jammu and something which seems to be purposely architectured to retain the control and power within Kashmir Valley.
Out of 87 Constituencies in which elections are held in the state of Jammu & Kashmir 14 constituencies which have more than one lakh voters. Ironically, out of 14 s u c h constituences, 10 constituencies are located in Jammu region and just 4 constituencies are located in Kashmir. The snippets which you can see carry a list of all these 14 constituencies of the state and we can very easily see that Gandhi Nagar with 1,68,643, Jammu West with 1,53,540 and Kathua with 1,12,083 can easily been divided in three constituencies each taking the figure to 46 constituencies equal to the number of constituencies of Kashmir region.
Nothing more can so lucidly explain the partisanship and propensity of one particular region Kashmir over Jammu. In normal circumstances even if these 10 constituencies undergo delimitation Jammu region will so easily have more constituencies and seats than Kashmir region.
Knowing all these permutations and combinations in electoral demography of state while rubbing salt over the wounds of Jammu region the hegemonic leadership of valley enforced delimitation of
electoral constituencies in state of Jammu and Kashmir under 29th Constitution Amendment Act of 2002. The State Government run by National Conference in year 2002 froze delimitation until 2026 by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. The amended Section 47(3) provided "that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial constituencies under this sub- section".
This has practically frozen the possibility not only of Delimitation but the prospect of development and growth of Jammu region which would have naturally come through more constituencies. More constituencies mean more seats in Assembly and more seats means more say in governance. Say in development and progress of marginalised region. Say in matters connected with state and nation. The question which stares us at this moment of history connects to the wails and cries of one region over the discrimination meted by a hegemonic set up perpetually.
With a sense of utmost responsibility that this hegemony has led to the State of Jammu & Kashmir into chaos and bloodshed. It is the tilt in the balance of power which has allowed one particular region to dictate and hijack the larger interests of state and its people. The sense and idea of separatism breeds through the idea of dominance.
Killing the idea of dominance will eventually give a deafening blow and a death knell to the idea of separatism.
(The writer is editor of Epilogue magazine)