National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday reacted sharply to reports that the government was planning to constitute a delimitation commission in the state to redraw the boundaries of Assembly constituencies. They said this was “another emotional partition of the state on communal lines” and “an attempt to make changes without mandate” from the people of the state.
Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a detailed meeting today with Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and other senior officials of the ministry’s Kashmir division, PTI reported. Shah was given a detailed presentation on the situation in the state.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing for a delimitation exercise in the seat with the aim of getting more seats for Jammu region in the 87-member state Assembly. Muslim-majority Kashmir has 46 seats, followed by Jammu region with 37 and Ladakh with four. There was a possibility of the government constituting the delimitation commission to redraw the scope and size of the Assembly segments and determine the number of seats reserved for Schedules Castes, unidentified officials told PTI.
Omar Abdullah said the freeze on delimitation till 2026 was put in place to bring Jammu and Kashmir in line with the rest of the country. “The same was challenged and upheld in both the High Court of J&K and he Supreme Court,” he tweeted. “A freeze on delimitation has been applied to the entire country until 2026 and contrary to the way some ill-informed TV channels are trying to sell it it isn’t just a J&K specific freeze.”
In a series of tweets, Abdullah said the BJP talks about bringing Jammu and Kashmir on par with other states by removing Articles 370 and 35-A but “now wants to treat J&K differently from other states in this one respect”.
The National Conferene leader said his party would oppose a delimitation commission. “When delimitation takes place in the rest of the country the BJP is welcome to apply it to J&K until then we in the National Conference will oppose, tooth & nail, any attempt to make changes without a mandate from the people of the state.”
Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti accused the government of inflicting pain on the people of the state. “Distressed to hear about government of India’s plan to redraw assembly constituencies in J&K,” she tweeted. “Forced delimitation is an obvious attempt to inflict another emotional partition of the state on communal lines. Instead of allowing old wounds to heal, GoI is inflicting pain on Kashmiris.”
Peoples Conference Chairperson Sajad Lone said he hoped the media reports were not true. “Don’t understand the earth shattering hurry,” he tweeted. “And this perception of being wronged at a provincial level. If thousands of graves in Kashmir don’t add up to people being wronged. Wonder what wronged means.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party first raised the demand for a delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir in 2008 during the Amarnath land row.
Two years later, the Supreme Court upheld the freeze imposed by Jammu and Kashmir government on delimitation of Assembly constituencies in the state till 2026 and dismissed the plea that it violated the “basic structure” of the state’s constitution. Rejecting National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh’s argument that it deprived the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes the right to represent the Valley, the apex court said courts cannot interfere in matters of delimitation as there was an express constitutional bar on such interference.
Singh welcomed reports about a delimitation commission, and accused the Congress and the National Conference of discriminating against people in the Jammu region.
BJP state General Secretary Ashok Kaul also welcomed the government’s proposed move. “We have strongly raised it in the past that this exercise should be undertaken,” PTI quoted him as saying. “It was also listed in the agenda of alliance with the PDP.”