Srinagar: Political parties in Kashmir on Tuesday urged the visiting Delimitation Commission to allay apprehensions of the people over the exercise by conducting it in a free, fair and transparent manner.
The commission — led by Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai — arrived on Tuesday on a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir to interact with leaders of political parties and officials to gather “first hand” inputs on the conduct of the mega exercise to carve out new constituencies in the Union Territory.
Several parties, including the National Conference (NC), People’s Conference (PC), Congress and the CPI(M), submitted separate memoranda to the visiting delegation.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and Awami National Conference (ANC) decided not to be part of the exercise with the PDP saying that there was a perception that the outcome of the process was pre-planned.
In their representations, the National Conference (NC) and the Congress outlined their concerns and demands related to the exercise, and saying it be carried out only after Jammu and Kashmir is granted statehood again.
The CPI(M) also submitted a memorandum which highlighted the constitutional aspects of delimitation and the legal challenge to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The commission’s visit came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with leaders from Jammu and Kashmir and pitched for early conduct of elections after the delimitation exercise is completed.
The National Conference said the delimitation exercise should not have been conducted till the Supreme Court decided on the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 and other related orders.
It said the hearing in the cases got delayed due to the pandemic and all the petitions are expected to be taken up once the physical hearing commences.
The party said in its memorandum that the implementation of any Act which is under the scrutiny of the court may amount to preempting the judicial verdict.
The party said that under the constitutional scheme, the delimitation of assembly constituencies fell within the powers of the state of J&K and under the second proviso to sec 47 of the Constitution of J&K, it is to be undertaken once the figures of the first census after 2026 are published.
The party said the delimitation exercise would be a credible effort in strengthening democracy only after full statehood is restored to J&K.
“Despite our basic reservations on the issue, the commission has decided to go ahead with the delimitation process. While reiterating our stand and without prejudice to the submissions made above, we request you and other members of the Commission to carry out the delimitation exercise in a free, fair and transparent manner so that the unity and integrity of the state is safeguarded. Population has to be the only norm as has been the practice here in the past in J&K and elsewhere in the country,” it said.
Talking to reporters after meeting the commission, NC leader Nasir Wani said the party impressed upon the panel that people have “lost faith” in institutions and it was for the commission to try and restore this confidence.
“If they are undertaking the exercise now, will it be repeated when delimitation has to be done across the country after 2026?” he asked.
Congress delegation in its memorandum said the delimitation process will be rendered “nugatory” if held before the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.
“May we at the INC point out that until the restoration of Statehood for J&K, as demanded in the CWC Resolution of 6th August 2019, is completed; the delimitation process commencement will be rendered nugatory,” the memorandum reads.
The party said it told the Commission that the initiation of political and democratic dialogue in Jammu & Kashmir must begin with restoration of civil liberties of political parties and people.
The “unlawful detention” of political leaders and their incarceration for long period without any charges is itself an anathema to the founding principles of democracy under our Constitution, it added.
“The aspiration of people of Ladakh to determine their democratic foundations within the four corners of the Indian constitution must be severely respected,” the Congress said.
The party also suggested that the draft proposal prepared by the delimitation Commission be circulated among all the political parties for giving suggestions and submitting objections, if any.
“The Congress is duty bound to represent the viewpoints, apprehensions and doubts of the masses in general about certain factors and preconceived notions that may be detrimental to the democratic rights.
“People of Jammu and Kashmir have grave apprehensions of preconceived political prejudice governing the Commission’s final recommendations with a view to give unfair and undue advantage to a particular political party and to the exclusion of democratic rights of the people for a just and amicable delimitation process and particularly to put the mainstream political parties in a disadvantageous position on account of innate unfairness,” it added.
The CPI(M) said under the present circumstances, the 2011 census should be taken as the guiding frame for the delimitation exercise.
“The neglected sections of the population living in remote areas of the J&K also must be given due representation, the memorandum submitted by Ghulam Nabi Malik read.