Delimitation of J&K Assembly seats

Jammu and Kashmir elections PTI

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 population profile &  composition of J&K 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 make the delimitation exercise in tune with Indian delimitation, 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 in the 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 2026 have 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 reorganization of assembly seats till 2031.It needs a mention  here that all the eight members of BJP in the assembly voted in favour of the amendment making it possible to pass the constitutional amendment with 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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. That the average number of voters in Kashmir assembly segments is less than Jammu which makes Jammu assembly seats denser than Kashmir.
  3. That the schedule casts/schedule tribes are under represented in the State assembly which need to be

Let us discuss  these fallacious arguments one by one

Section 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 drooling 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  expressions are  antonyms of each other and have to used in a contrasting sense than treating as carrying similar 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 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 lacs

Total assembly seats        :  (2)                                                           87

Assembly seat per person: (1/2)                                                   1,43,678

Kashmir entitled to seats:             =68,94,000/1,43,678=            48

Jammu entitled to seats :              = 53,51,000/1,43,678=             37

Ladakh entitled to seats:                = 2,90,000/1,43,678=                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 judicial compactness. Fairness demands that this shortfall must be shared by Jammu & Kashmir division in equal ratio, which means that Jammu should surrender on seat in favor of Kashmir. Jammu must

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 here is that the figures relied upon by author are misleading in as much these pertain to a period when election boycott is in force. The effect of bycott is that people not only desist from voting but also avoid registering their names in voter lists.

Another argument relied upon 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 constitution of J&K, section 49 of which makes this reservation 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.

(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: [email protected])


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