When, in the aftermath of gruesome killing of a young Pandit employee in Budgam district, a depressing scenario is unfolding in Kashmir which may see five thousand Pandit employees pulling out of the Valley, an encouraging news of sorts for the KPs is filtering down the corridors of Delhi Darbar.
According to the media reports the Central Government is “likely to accept recommendation of the Delimitation Commission for giving two seats to Kashmiri Pandits in the Assembly.”
One doesn’t know how much gloom that has lately descended on the displaced community will get lifted by the news but certainly it is an acknowledgement of what it has been demanding as a measure of political empowerment .
The Delimitation Commission, constituted in 2020 to demarcate 90 Assembly constituencies and 5 Parliamentary Constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir , gave its Report which has been notified by the GOI.
Apart from what has been condensed to the Notification O.N 17 (E), dated 5th May, 2022 as Order No. 2 – Published in GOI Gazette of the same date, the Delimitation Commission, concurrently, issued a Press Note No ECI /PN/ 41 /2022.
According to it the Commission has made recommendations to the Central Government and asked it to make “ Provision of at least two members (one of them must be a female ) from the community of Kashmiri Migrants in the legislative Assembly and such members may be given power at par with the power of nominated members , of the Legislative Assembly Of Union Territory of Puducherry .”
While making recommendation the Commission had noted that “ the delegations of Kashmiri Migrants represented before the commission that they were persecuted and forced to live in exile as refugees in their own country for the last three decades. It was urged that in order to preserve their political rights, seats may be reserved for them in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Parliament.”
Some may argue that the Commission has identified Kashmiri Migrants and not KPs as a community which should be considered for representation in the Legislative Assembly.
One has to understand that the country’s constitution doesn’t permit religion based reservations in the legislature. But the way the Commission had prefaced its recommendation no room is left to doubt which community it had in mind when it said so.
The Commission, in making such a kind of recommendation, has put a stamp of approval on the law and circumstances which the community delegations had put forth before it, in support of the claim of representation in state legislature and the Parliament. In order to honour the recommendation lot of legislative work needs to be done.
To begin with, Section 14 of The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 has to be amended, suitably. It may be followed by an appropriate amendment to the Representation Of People’s Act, as is now applicable to the UT. So long as J &K is a UT Article 239 A of the Constitution can be invoked to achieve the purpose .
Law submitted before the Commission, to fortify the claim of the displaced persons, has to be reiterated before the Central government to facilitate the required amendments to the various laws, relevant to the matter.
The legal and factual position like Sangha Reservation in Sikkim Assembly, the Pondicherry Model (referred by the Commission ), nomination for Women in the erstwhile J &K Assembly and the case of Anglo Indian’s reservation must be brought to the notice of quarters concerned.
The questions, however, remain. Will a couple of persons in the Assembly restore to Pandits all they have lost in previous three decades and provide assurance that there would be no repeat of the unfortunate circumstances: instil enough confidence among the displaced persons to restart life wherefrom it got displaced 32 years back? These questions need answers: particularly now when the state has failed to protect KP employees who have been serving in the Valley.
What has suddenly changed on the ground that is forcing the young Pandit employees to rethink on their stay in Kashmir where they been living, anew, since 2010? The disease may have symptoms in Kashmir but prognosis has to be done in Delhi and elsewhere in the mainland where new ‘history’, that suits to a particular ideology, is being written by, literally, digging the past.
There is a huge trust deficit between the two communities in Kashmir. If the proposed presence of two KPs in the upcoming Assembly has to have any meaning, recognition of the ground realties of the Valley is must.
Their presence will mean nothing for the displaced community unless an all around conducive atmosphere for safe and secure living is created.
Security forces can do it up to a limit: for endurance of the atmosphere reconciliation among various sections of the Kashmir society is sine quo non.
Mutual trust has to be build . To ensure that, first, the polarising politics played in the country must end and the hate mongers masquerading as TV anchors should be reined in.
B L SARAF, former Principal District & Sessions Judge
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.