A. Latief u Zaman Deva
As in the cow belt of the Country the BJP also treats Hindus in J&K as its pocket borough who incidentally constitute 28.80 % of the population of the UT and by even over stretched standards were entitled to 25/26 seats only in the Assembly on the basis of actual geographic & demographic features but the biased Delimitation Commission (DC) through brazen gerry meandering & contrary to the criteria claimed to have been laid down & followed by it raised the number of Hindu majority Assembly constituencies to 33 with another 3 almost equally populated by the adherents of the two major religions. Not content with windfall of 7 to 8 seats the route by nomination of their co-religionists as Members was partly adopted by earmarking 2 seats for Women in 2019 & now an Amendment Bill in J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 is claimed to be in offing for monsoon session of the Parliament aiming at incorporation of a provision for nomination of two migrants and one Displaced Person as Members to the UT Legislative Assembly.
The Political parties by participating in the limited public outreach programme of the DC didn’t in their memoranda strike at the faulty & unconstitutional criterion adopted for delimitation exercise and also failed miserably to project the popular aspirations and the apparent aberrations in the draft report. It is now high time for them as democrats to rise up to the occasion, even at the belated stage, to salvage the symbol of electoral democracy in the UT to the extent possible.
While the outcome of the DC can’t be rectified till fresh exercise is undertaken by the new DC, the impropriety of the nomination route and its sinister motives can be laid bare in public discourse. The majority of the migrants are Hindus from the Valley who were never more than 1 % of the State population or 5 % of the Valley population without territorial homogenous spread but residing across the Valley with Muslim brethren and did command a dignified presence in the Govtts & the legislative Assembly. The prominent leaders from the community included Shiv Narian Fotadhar, Sham Lal Saraf, Legendary D. P. Dhar, M. L. Koul, M. L. Fotadhar, M. K. Tickoo, P. L. Handoo, a legal Luminary & Ramman Mattoo who used to be elected members of the Constituent Assembly Or the Legislative Assembly, as the case may be Or members of the legislative Council. In Dogra track of Kathua, Samba, Jammu & Udhampur the Muslim population is 2.54 Lakhs representing 8.72 % of the regional population ( after excluding 01 lakh migrants from the population of Jammu Distt) but in its chequered history has had never a Muslim legislator in the legislative Assembly except once Sheikh . Ab. Rehman as a candidate of Jan Sangh. These people survived inferno of partition & their forefathers witness to the ethnic cleansing & genocides patronised by the Govtt resulting in diminishing of their population from 39 % in 1941 to 5 % in 1961 in Jammu & Samba alone which included uprooting of over one lakh Muslim population, under the euphemism of evacuation much before 26th October 1947, for dumping them in neighbouring foreign country, a unique phenomenon of despotic State abdicating its responsibility to protect its citizens. If the raison d’etre for nominations is to protect political rights it is this segment of the population who deserve it, otherwise they have almost relinquished their political aspirations. The best option would have been to reserve Habakadal in Srinagar for migrants & Nagrota in Jammu for the survivors of the holocaust of the partition. The average population for each Assembly segment is 136300 & therefore one seat for 120000 Migrants residing in Jammu track.Relevant to mention that the 1.20 Lakh migrant population in Distts of Jammu, Udhumpur & Kathua has been accounted for the respective Distts by the DC when they are actually & rightly registered as voters in the Assembly constituencies of their ordinarily residence in the Kashmir Division. The population of non- Muslims in Mirpur, Punch & Muzaferabad Distts in 1941 was 120858 & after excluding the number of people from the communities in tehsils from these Distts retained by India, casualties suffered by them due to involvement of tribals & growth spurt in population for the period 1942 to 1947 the 31619 number of Displaced families registered with PRO Jammu puts a question mark on the magnitude of the massacre claimed to have taken place in POK. The 1965 & 71 wars added to the number of displaced families and on the basis of decadal population growth rates the total DP population could be around 7 Lakhs who stand largely rehabilitated in Distts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Udhumpur, Reasi, Rajouri & Punch & being permanent residents of the erstwhile State of J&K from Dogra, Pahari, Pothari & Punjabi communities they are fully integrated into the local milieu without any disadvantage, be it in political, societal or services spheres. In fact the DPs have returned a galaxy of leaders as legislators, Ministers, top bureaucrats apart from owning as allottees huge State & evacuee land holdings in lieu of the immovable property left behind by them in POK which is actually far more than what is recorded as evacuee property in POK. By no stretch of imagination they qualify for political reservations and if the decision is guided by political considerations anchored beyond LOC, atleast 4 segments having highest Pahari population could have been reserved for them instead of invoking the nomination route. The reservation for women has not yielded dividends in the form of ensuring adequate representation to them in the Assembly & to be a harbinger of change in this behalf let the Union Govtt reserve 1/3rd seats for them & to be further apportioned in conformity with the General,ST & SC population. The way the reservations have been proposed these would emerge as a bad precedent worth to be done away with sooner than later as in far more strong cases at national level the adoption of reservation can’t be refused in face of its continuance in J&K. Back home in Jammu Division the Sikhs with 3.40 % share from out of the population of the Division have negligible chances of returning a candidate of their own choice & Muslims having 34.21 % population in the Division are safely positioned in 9 segments only instead of 14 to which they are rightly entitled.
In a multi -religious & multi -ethnic Country/State/UT the provision for nomination of 5 Members to the House of 95 Members ( 90 elected+5 nominated) together with flawed delimitation, drenched as it is in partiality, in all probability could subvert the electoral outcome thereby knocking down the edifice of democracy, much talked & boasted about in international fora. A mere 28.80 % segment of the society fetching 36.66 % representation in the House of 90 elected Members and once 5 Members are nominated by the Lt Governor, a BJP core leader with RSS baptisation, the effective strength of the House would be 95 Members and the 2nd largest component of the UT population ending up with 40 % representatives . No parallel in the real democracies of the World as the privileged are winding their way with over representation solely by dint of being the co-religionists of the Hindutva dispensation. Wherever in the world the Constitution mandates space for nominations to the elected bodies it is the elected Members who elect them in order to not prejudice or subvert the outcome of the hustings. An exception to J&K for obvious reasons?
The author is IAS Retd & former Chairman J&K PSC & can be reached on aaluzdeva_ email@example.com