Jammu and Kashmir, for long, have been the site of contestation for all-federalists, the ruling party, opposition, and voices from civil society, alike. As we await the redrawing of constituencies by the Delimitation Commission, constituted this year (2020) to redraw the Assembly constituencies of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeastern States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, it is useful to first analyze the history and the need to take stock of indicators beyond the population numbers while committing to this action in Jammu and Kashmir.
This delimitation in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir comes nine months after the controversial Article 370 was scrapped and the J&K State was divided into two Union territories. The urgent task of ‘reintegration’ must be undertaken with special attention to the higher quest of restoring democracy, accountability, and sustainable economic growth.
As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, which was passed by Parliament on August 5 last year and came into effect on October 31, the Union Territory of J&K will have an Assembly, while Ladakh will not. The Act further said that the number of seats in the J&K Assembly would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation and this would be based on the 2011 Census. Since 24 seats are assigned to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, so effectively, the seats will go up from 83 to 90.
All the five Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu and Kashmir, three from the NC and two from the BJP have been nominated as “associate members” of the Delimitation Commission to assist the panel in redrawing parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the newly-created union territory. However, the National Conference has decided not to participate in the delimitation exercise.
The process of Delimitation is being carried out after approximately every 10 years in the country. In J&K the first exercise of delimitation was done in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act of 1952, the second in 1963 under the Delimitation Commission Act of 1962. Subsequently, another delimitation commission was set up in 1973 under the Delimitation Act of 1972 and in 2002 under the Delimitation Act, 2002. The 2020 Delimitation commission constituted after the passage of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 is expected to reorganize the Union Territory and ensure that the historic anomalies created earlier are resolved and the very purpose of delimitation of constituencies i.e., to ensure proper and fair representation of the people in the Parliament and/or Legislative Assembly is established.
Based on the latest Census, the Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in such a way that the population of all seats, as far as practicable, is the same. The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Woman, Minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (regions where their population is relatively large). This basic norm/guideline was never respected in J&K for the last 70 years.
Unfair practices /discrimination in Delimitation till Now.
According to the census of 1971 and 1981 (even if we forget the earlier period), the population percentage of different divisions of Jammu and Kashmir was, Jammu around 45 % of the state population, Kashmir 52%, and Ladakh around 2.5% and yet the distribution of seats of the state legislature was done in a manner that Kashmir got the lion’s share of seats- more than 55%, Jammu division got only 42% seats and Ladakh 2.6%. In case of parliamentary seats Kashmir took away 50% and the remaining 50% got distributed between Ladakh and Jammu in the ratio of 16.6 % and 33.3% respectively. This distribution of seats was solely based on the population figures with no regard to the area. The discrimination is visible within Kashmir province as well.
Historically Kashmir is divided into 3 Regions, namely Kamraz (North Kashmir) Yamraz (Central Kashmir) & Maraz (South Kashmir). Kamraz / North Kashmir/ (BARAMULLA District prior to 1979) with the area of 6967 Sq. Kms is 42.60% of the whole Kashmir valley area. Maraz/ South Kashmir/Anantnag District with 5382 Sq. Kms area is only 34% of Kashmir valley and yet when it comes to representation in the Assembly, Kamraz has only 15 seats and Maraz 16. While Kamraz has only three districts in comparison to Maraz which has four.
Generally, the public spending and development of a region or area are based on the number of legislative seats it has. However, one sees that Kamraz or the North Kashmir in present-day parlance is the most discriminated region in every respect including the representation of people in the elected forum. Kamraz had equal if not less share of the population within Kashmir Division yet its share of seats in state Legislature was less. (This is without taking into account the area and other aspects into consideration).
It becomes distinctly visible that the “democratic setup” in Jammu and Kashmir was used as a cover-up to achieve narrow self-interests by the Vocal Kashmir Centric leadership. They had no regard for fairness, transparency and accountability. The other parties/regions were marginalized on one pretext or the other. Jammu region was treated unfairly because it has different ethnicity and religion. Within Kashmir religious minorities, Hindus in particular were targeted and marginalized again on the basis of religion. Kamraz was also treated shabbily because people there were poor and under privileged-hence voiceless. Furthermore, no other political party was allowed to function as that would mean competition.
In 2002, the numbers of voters in Jammu were more than Kashmir by 1.41 lakhs. In 2014, Kashmir voters exceeded Jammu voters by 4.21 Lacs – a swing of 5.67 Lacs. It is surprising as to how Kashmir’s population increased by 14,11,000 in 10 years from 2001 to 2011. According to the 2011 Census, the average population growth of Jammu Province which was 31% between 1971-2001 dropped to 21% in 2011. A decrease of 10% population of Jammu proves that 2011 census amounted to a migration of 10% Jammu population on paper. Due to the 1990 migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir to Jammu and to outside the State the percentage growth in Kashmir’s population should have been lower than that of Jammu, but it instead it is shown to grow by 26% from that of census figures of 1991. This puts a big question mark on the Census figures of 2011.
Minorities of Kashmir
Religious minorities of Kashmir valley were in a position to elect four members to the first Legislative/Constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Even this was not acceptable to the political leadership and the Constituencies in which these minorities were in a position to influence electoral outcome were redrawn in a manner that by 1990 it was impossible for them to send even one representative to the state legislature. This was a design to marginalize, exclude and eliminate their presence from every aspect of Kashmir Life, be it the land, economy or political empowerment. One can say that the mass Displacement of Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir in 1989-90 was the logical culmination of this policy.
Up to 1.5 million Gujjars and Bakarwals live in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – around 11.9% of the region’s total population as per the 2011 Census. Gujjars-Bakerwals of Jammu and Kashmir have been urging for correction. Census 2011, National Population Register as first phase was held between June and September 2010 in the state when migratory tribes were under migration to upper reaches of Himalayas at that point of time.
West Pakistan Refugees & other
West Pakistan refugees, Balmiki Samaj members, and Gorkhas, were denied any representation in the Assembly. By some estimate, this population approx accounted for 0.4-.05 Million.
Delimitation Process Based on 2011 Census:
Jammu and Kashmir have a population of 1.25 Crores, an increase from a figure of 1.01 Crore in 2001 census-estimated to be 1.50 Crore today. Total population of Jammu and Kashmir as per 2011 census is 1.25 Crores of which male and female are 66 Lakhs and 60 Lakhs respectively. In 2001, the total population was 1.01 Crores in which males were 53 Lakhs while females were 48 Lakhs. The total population growth in this decade was 23.64 percent while in the previous decade it was 29.04 percent.
In the 2011 Census, no door to door survey was conducted, however, the records reveal that the population of Hindus in Kashmir stood at 1.64 lakhs, with a sex ratio as 10:1. This sex ratio, compared to the national figure of 1000:940, is a complete farce. According to the 2001 census, Kashmir Hindus formed 1.84 % of Kashmir population. It further states that 1.5 lakh to 3 lakhs Kashmiri Pandits were displaced to Jammu and other parts of India due to militancy. It is pertinent to mention that after the Hindu exodus in 1989-90, two censuses were conducted, i.e., in 2001 and 2011 both have been Eyewash & pure fabrication.
Change in Distribution, 2001 – 2011.
Census figures show that the difference between the population of Jammu and Kashmir increased by 44% between 2001 and 2011 i.e. post-outbreak of insurgency in 1989 as compared to 16% between 1971 and 1981, which again supports that 2011 census was a fraud. Between 1981 and 2011, the population of Muslims as a percentage of total population increased by 4.12% and those of Hindus & Sikhs fell by 4.27%. This can be explained by only two ways – either the Census was fabricated or the Hindus disappeared in Lakhs. If only mathematical calculations are considered, by the present delimitation commission, as the basis for seats distribution/enhancement, then the seat distribution would be as given below in table 3. This distribution would be unjust and pop up a wrong outcome as not only the 2011 census figures seem to be fabricated but other aspects of delimitation like land area, economic and political empowerment would be causalities.
It is the right time to put an end to the decades of discrimination, manipulation and exclusion. If Democracy has to flourish now in the reorganized Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, The Delimitation Commission will have to work hard. Population alone is not the criterion for the delimitation of territorial Constituencies. Geographical compactness, facilities of communication and conveniences to the public are equally important considerations. Above all the Delimitation Commission has to take into consideration, anomalies of the past and population increase since the last Census which is estimated at 1.50 Cr at present.
Delimitation Commission has to provide proper representation to different sections of the population i.e., Gujjars, Bakarwals, West Pakistan refugees, Balmiki Samaj members, and Gorkhas who have been denied the same since last 70 years.
Furthermore, Minority Communities in the Kashmir valley who had to undergo migration must be guaranteed adequate representation. It can be achieved in numerous diverse ways. The seats from which Minority candidates were elected in 1952 could be reserved for them. Our Constitution has enough room and precedence to ensure such a reservation. Even in Jammu and Kashmir, there was a provision to nominate two members to the Legislative Assembly to give representation to women, if the women are not adequately represented in the Legislative Assembly. This provision has been retained in The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019. Same is the case with SCs/STs and other hitherto unrepresented sections of society. While we look at this exercise more closely, the effort should be to bring to the attention of the authorities, these salient needs of the time so that one can effectively bring in democratically devised provisions and ensure adequate representation and remedy historical shortsightedness.
[The author Sanjay Sapru is a technocrat with over 20 years of experience in the marketplace having proficiency in development, management, and business skills. As a son of the soil, Jammu & Kashmir is close to his heart and therefore he is very keen on setting up symbols of development in Jammu & Kashmir in order to reduce unemployment. The views expressed are his own.]