Conflicts & War

‘New electoral map of disputed Kashmir raises more questions than answers’

By Shah Abbas

Srinagar, India, May 6 (EFE).- The Indian government’s controversial move to redraw the electoral map of Kashmir has drawn sharp reactions from regional politicians as it gives greater political representation to the disputed Muslim-majority region’s Hindu districts.

The government on Thursday published a new list of redrawn electoral constituencies in Kashmir, increasing six legislative seats in the Hindu-dominated Jammu division and just one in the mainly Muslim Kashmir Valley.

The report of the three-member delimitation commission comes amid a widespread view that the Hindu-nationalistic government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to change the demography of the idyllic Himalayan region disputed between India and Pakistan.

The government stripped the erstwhile state of its semi-autonomy in August 2019 and divided Kashmir into two federal territories, ostensibly to bring peace and development to the region, where Muslim rebels have been fighting for an independent state or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.

As per the delimitation report, the Jammu division will have 43 electoral constituencies, six more than it previously had. The Kashmir Valley will have 47, just one more than it had earlier.

Besides, the commission has proposed to reserve nine seats for scheduled tribes and seven for scheduled castes.

The commission members say they have redrawn the political map based on the population census of 2011.

However, as per the census, the Jammu division has a 5.3 million population, and the Kashmir Valley has 6.8 million.

Pro-India politicians have alleged that the government initiated the delimitation process to turn the demographic majority into a political minority and give Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party more chances to win the elections when the government holds them.

The commission has recommended additional seats in the regional parliament for Kashmiri Hindu migrants and displaced persons from Pakistan-administered Kashmir also Hindus.

“The delimitation exercise has been done to complete the BJP agenda. The majority community has been disempowered. The commission has shown no regard for law and constitution,” former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti told reporters after the final draft report was made public.

The notification of Kashmir’s new electoral boundaries has revived fears that the “unconstitutional exercise” would affect “demographic change” and “disempower the people.”

The average population of an assembly constituency in the Muslim-majority Kashmir will be 140,000, and only 120,000 in Jammu.

It would “disempower the people of Kashmir,” said Tanvir Sadiq, spokesperson for the National Conference that has ruled the former state for a good part of its history since 1947.

Another National Conference leader, Imran Nabi Dar, told EFE that the commission had “completely ignored the important and only parameter of population in the exercise.”

Several legal experts also call the redrawing of the electoral boundaries of Kashmir a “mockery of all sorts”.

“A unilateral attempt to allow unreasonably higher electoral representation to the Hindu population to the disadvantage of the Muslims is a mockery of all norms of democracy,” a lawyer told EFE on condition of anonymity.

“It is also against India’s obligations under the UN Security Council Resolutions about Kashmir and international law to alter the political or geographical boundaries of a disputed territory like,” he said.

The process to redraw electoral maps across India was frozen till 2026. However, the Modi government allowed it in Kashmir, raising many eyebrows.

Related Articles

Back to top button