Delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K is the new war cry let loose by Sangh Parivar & its drooling followers. Columns , opinions & views have started appearing in print & social media exhorting the new Govt. in New-Delhi to initiate such an action so as to show People of Kashmir their political worth as it has shown to Muslims in India. Fictive grounds, bizarre justification & outlandish claims are being peddled to demand more assembly seats for Jammu so as to convert a numerical majority into a political minority. This article is in response to one of such columns written by Sant Kumar Sharma titled ‘Delimitation of J&K Assembly seats will end partisanship that favours Kashmir, which appeared in First post on 7th June 2019.It is said that there are lies, damn lies & statistics. Mr. Sharma has exploited this saying to the hilt to his advantage. He has twisted facts & figures to justify constitution of a delimitation commission to be tasked with reorganization of State assembly constituencies so as to give a lion’s share to Jammu province. In his opinion, this will pave way for political disempowerment of Kashmiris. While I will deal with his jugglery of facts &figures a little later, it is necessary to have a look at the demographic profile of State & composition of her State assembly . The population of Jammu and Kashmir State, as per 2011 census is 125.35 lacs .
Kashmir division has 68.94 lacs-Jammu division has 53.51 lacs & Leh division 2.90 lacs. Overall Muslims form 68%, Hindus 28% & others 4%. The state has 22 districts. Muslims are in majority in 17 districts, Hindus in 4 districts & Buddhists are the majority in one. The state’s Legislative Assembly was initially composed of 100 members. This was later increased to 111 by amending the J&K Constitution ( 20th Amendment) in 1987. Of these, 24 seats are reserved for the territorial constituencies of the state under the occupation of Pakistan . Hence, at present total contestable seats are 87.Out of 87, Kashmir valley region has 46 seats, Jammu 37 seats and Ladakh 4 seats. In order to bring the delimitation process in tune with Indian delimitation exercise, Section 47 of the J&K Constitution was amended in 2002 to provide that it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats inthe Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial constituencies until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026have been published. Since the census figures are normally available after a gap of ten years, the above constitutional amendment, in effect puts a seal on delimitation
& reorganization of assembly seats till 2031.It needs a mention here that all the eightmembers of BJP in the assembly voted in favor of this constitutional amendment making it possible to pass it with required two-third majority. A consequential amendment was also made in J&K Representation of peoples Act 1957 by inserting a proviso in section 3 of the said Act.The said constitutional amendment was Challenged by Prof.Bhim Singh of Panthers party in J&K High Court where it was dismissed holding the constitutional amendment proper & valid. An appeal against this order was also dismissed by Supreme Court in 2010,thus putting the final seal of approval on state legislative action.Now coming to the jugglery of facts & figures by the author of the article. He has relied on three main grounds in framing his pro-delimitation argument.a) That the geographical area of Jammu is larger than Kashmir and J&K representation of people Act provides this criterion to be taken into account while allotting assembly seats to a particular area.b) That the average number of voters in Kashmir assembly segments is less than Jammu which makes Jammu assembly seats denser than Kashmir. c) That the schedule casts/schedule tribes are under represented in the State assembly which need to be increased. Let us discuss these fallacious arguments one by oneSection 4 of J&K representation of People’s Act provides distribution of 87 assembly seats to single member territorial constituencies having consideration to population,geographical compactness, terrain etc. in those constituencies. The author, as many other naïve & unversed followers, confuse geographical compactness with geographical area.
Geographical compactness means a territory which is closely and firmly united or packed together while geographical area means a land mass or a surface, especially an open, unoccupied piece of ground. In fact, the two expressionsare antonyms of each other and have to be used in a contrasting sense rather than treated as carrying similar sense & meaning. The best example of geographical compactness criterion having been taken into account was when Nubra with a population of 22,433 & Zanskar with a population of 13,793 in Leh & Kargil respectively were each allotted an assembly seat. The fallacy of proponents of large geographical area can be seen from the fact that if this criterion is to be taken into account, then Ladakh region with a geographical area of 59,000 sq. Kms (as against Jammu’s 26,000 kms, & Kashmirs 16,000 sq. Kms) should get 51 seats, Jammu 22 seats & Kashmir 14 seats (87 seats divided in the ratio of 59:26:16).
In-fact, the most significant & paramount yardstick for allotting assembly seats to a particular area is its population and if this bench mark is taken into consideration, then Kashmir must get 48 seats, Jammu 37 & Leh 2 seats out of total 87 seats as below: (Figures rounded off to nearest 000)Total Population of State: (1) 125.35 lacsTotal assembly seats : (2)
87Average No. of persons entitled to one assembly seat: (1/2) 1,43,678 Kashmir entitled to seats: =68,94,000/1,43,678= 48 (shortfall 46-48=- 2) Jammu entitled to seats : = 53,51,000/1,43,678= 37 (Shortfall-37-37= 0)Ladakh entitled to seats: = 2,90,000/1,43,678= 2(Excess 4-2=+2 )From the above data, it is clear that while Jammu retains its full share, Kashmir falls short by two seats which have gone to Ladakh on the criterion of geographical compactness. Fairness demands that this shortfall must be shared by Jammu & Kashmir division in equal ratio, particularly when Jammu is always on forefront of airing views/greviances of Ladakh division. This means that Jammu should surrender one seat in favor of Kashmir. The second argument of the author is that total Voters in Srinagar district comprising of eight assembly seats are 6,25,801 as against 10,10,959 for Jammu district comprising of eleven assembly seats. This gives an average voter per constituency in Srinagar as 78,225 as against 91,905 in Jammu. He then goes on to deduce that since average voter per constituency in Jammu is more than in Srinagar, hence reorganization of assembly seats is required to give more seats to Jammu to accommodate those extra voters. The fallacy in the author’s data is that the figures relied upon by him pertain to election boycott period when people not only desist from voting but also avoid registering their names in voter lists. These misleading figures can’t form the basis of reorganization.Yet another argument forwarded by the author is that SC/ST are under represented in the Assembly. Since this class of people is present only in Jammu, the author wants more seats for them. It appears that the author has not fully read constitutionof J&K, section 49 of which makes it abundantly clear that this reservation is to expire after 2020.Originally this reservation was to expire in year 2000 but was extended by another 20 years ( Twice by 10 years each) to finally lapse in 2020.
While on the issue, it is worth mentioning here that some self styled Kashmir expertshave opined that Governor or President is competent to amend the constitution of J&K. Nothing can be further from truth. Constitution of J&K can only be amended by the State legislature in accordance with the procedure laid down in section 147 of the said Constitution .(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)