On the occasion of this Herath/Shivratri, when the report of the Delimitation Commission is about to be finalised, Kashmiri Pandit community-the children of lesser gods, is awaiting for the State of India to rise to the occasion and thus recognise the right of the displaced community to get represented politically in the legislature of their own state called Jammu and Kashmir.
On 21st February 2022, Amit Shah, Union Minister for Home Affairs said in an interview that the elections for the J&K Assembly would be held in six to eight months of time.
The announcement was followed by the government order of extension in favour of the Delimitation Commission for another two months. It meant that the final report of the Delimitation Commission regarding the delimitation of constituencies in J&K would be ready by a couple of months.
The report would be made public by the Delimitation Commission for responses and objections of institutions and public. Thereafter, the final report will be forwarded to the government by the Commission for its presentation to the parliament.
Thus the minimum possible time-frame will be as follows. While the final report will be in the hands of the government in April-May this year, it would be ordinarily possible to finalise the dates of the elections by the end of the Monsoon session of the parliament, in case everything goes as per the normal schedule.
Therefore, the elections can be held in J&K in Oct-Nov 2022, consequently, the elected government will take over by the end of 2022. The last elections for the J&K Assembly were also concluded by December 2014. It would be after full eight years that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be having elections again and thus an elected government of its own.
The Delimitation Commission has already proposed six additional seats for Jammu region and one additional seat for the Kashmir region thus taking the total number of the Assembly seats to 90, with 47 seats for Kashmir region and 43 seats for the Jammu region. This is by and large a fair distribution between the two regions in the background of allegations of huge political discrimination with the Jammu region in the given situation.
Then reservation of 9 seats to the STs and 7 seats to the SCs is also a matured political decision of the Commission keeping in view that there was no provision of reservation for the STs earlier. Seats for the Scheduled Caste category have also been rotated though there are certain issues in this regard among the stakeholders. Then names of certain constituencies that have their own historicity have also been changed which is also not to the liking of the people residing therein.
Having said that, there are yet a couple of sections of the population in J&K who have very brittle chances of representation in future with the implementation of the report of the Delimitation Commission.
Among these sections that have remained unattended yet, despite meeting the Commission, making their presentations very effectively and convincing the Commission that their pleas have enough substance comprise Kashmiri Pandit displaced community, Kashmiri Sikhs and the people belonging to the Pakistan occupied Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK).
These communities have a very strong feeling that they have been treated as the children of lesser gods. However, they have still a great hope and expectation so far as the final report is concerned.
The Kashmiri Pandits made a presentation before the Delimitation Commission on 26 March 2021 at its New Delhi office and later in July 2021 at Jammu when the Commission paid a visit to the J&K state. A number of documents as desired by the Hon’ble Commission were also submitted before it, both at New Delhi as well as at Jammu.
The case of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits and other minorities of Kashmir is a unique one which the founding fathers of the Indian constitution would have never visualised. Since they are living as refugees in their own country and belong to the Kashmir valley as its indigenous people, it is important that their issue is put on priority while finalising the draft.
We are also aware that the Commission is working on the basis of the terms of reference and the J&K Reorganisation Act of 2019, therefore, the issue of the Pandit community needs to be viewed from a broader perspective. Accordingly, as their case has a strong and valid substance, so the final report on delimitation may include their reference in it for inclusion by taking up a constitutional measures by the government and the parliament.
It may be reiterated that the delimitation issue will test the very intent of the Indian State towards the displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Sikhs and the other Hindus of Kashmir living in exile for the last more than three decades. It is the question of their socio-political existence in a state the foundations of which were laid by their forefathers in the past history. Ignoring them in the report would, de facto and also psychologically, close all gates for their return and resettlement back in the valley in future as well.
The contributions of the Pandit community in the fields of literature, architecture, civilisational flow, medicine, philosophy, music, dance, law, politics, history writing, religion and sociology are well recognised, profound and immense. It will be a worse tragedy than their unfortunate forced exodus if they are ignored in the final analysis, draft and report of the Delimitation Commission. It will be like consigning the oldest community of Jammu and Kashmir to the oldest ruins of history and circumstances. No permutations and combinations can ever get their representatives elected in the J&K Legislature in the given situation.
The displaced community in the hour of their crisis is looking forward to the Delimitation Commission and the government of India for collective justice and fairness. This is possible by a clear reference to the government of India and parliament by the Commission for taking up the required constitutional measures in line with the Sikkim ‘Sangha’ example, Pudducherry Assembly model of nominations, erstwhile Parliamentary representation for Anglo-Indian community or the nomination of two women members to the Assembly as it existed in the J&K Assembly.
This author has been reiterating that the delimitation exercise is going to test the intent of the State of India towards the reverse minority community of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits, and theirs will be a historic decision from the existential point of view. Otherwise the oft-repeated phrase that “Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits” will remain only on the lips. When the Delimitation Commission is about to finalise the final report in this regard, it is again time to remind the State of India of its commitments towards the displaced people of Kashmir, the victims of genocide, who are both displaced and dispersed due to the failures of the successive governments right from 1990.
Undoubtedly, the Delimitation Commission of India and the Election Commission of India are both an integral part of the State of India and are thus expected to play a decisive and historic role, particularly when the representatives of the community were emphatically conveyed that their plea had a lot and sufficient substance, when they made their presentations before the Commission. It is hoped that the strong feeling of being ‘the children of lesser gods’ of the Kashmiri Pandit community is addressed by the concerned appropriately in this context.
The author is a senior BJP and KP leader, Incharge, Deptt of Political Feedback, BJP-J&K
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.