JAMMU: The reading down of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its reorganisation on August 5, 2019, had meanings going far beyond symbolism and ideological oaths. It meant changing the ground rules of politics and society in every which way possible.
The fresh delimitation of the electoral constituencies, one of the various processes as a consequence of August 5, is not just about numbers and allocations. The second draft proposal, which still offers scope of amends, suggests that the exercise has effectively carried out the first-ever practical change in the electoral map which is poised to pave way for a complete change in the political landscape.
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The tussle of Jammu against Kashmir on the distribution of Assembly constituencies has been a historic one coming on from first delimitation ever. In 1951, Kashmir was allocated 42 seats and Jammu 30 –a gap of 13 seats. Seventy years later, that gap has come down to four but it is not about the numbers anymore.
The last delimitation of 1995 had carved an average constituency in Jammu over an area of 710 Square Kilometers while this size was 370 Square Kilometers in Kashmir. The current distribution has changed significantly -339 Square Kilometers in Kashmir and 611 in Jammu.
The real action in the electoral process is driven by people and not the land. That dynamic has changed for the two regions. Now the Assembly constituencies are much smaller in Jammu than in Kashmir in terms of population size.
Nineteen Constituencies in the Kashmir Valley are of the population size of 1.5 lakh or above, while this number for Jammu is only six. Similarly, 25 Constituencies in Kashmir are in the population range of one to one and a half lakh. This number in Jammu is, however, 30. While the Jammu region now has seven Constituencies with a population of less than one lakh, this number in Kashmir is only three.
As per the 2011 census, and taking out population of Ladakh, the average population per constituency in Jammu and Kashmir works out to 136300. As per the Delimitation Commission’s proposed allocation, the average population size per constituency in Kashmir is 146563 and in Jammu, it is 125082. Now population size of an average constituency in Jammu is 20,000 souls smaller than one in Kashmir.
THE BACK STORY
The first Assembly in 1952 was constituted on the basis of 1941 census following a delimitation exercise which created a total of 75 Assembly seats, of which 43 were allocated to Kashmir Valley, 30 to Jammu and two to Ladakh region. Jammu region, particularly the Tawi catchment area, has been calling discrimination ever since, mainly on the basis of area. Following first delimitation, the average area under a constituency in the Kashmir Valley was 370 Square Kilometers while in Jammu this was 876 Square Kilometers.
There are allegations that first delimitation sent each constituency in Jammu over an average of population of 75,000 and in Kashmir the number was 55,000. However, this is unsubstantiated since there was no census in 1951, the first delimitation was based on 1941 census and in 1947-18 there was huge displacement of population including the loss of territory to Pakistan.
The next delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir was carried out in 1963 on the basis of 1961 census. This was accomplished under the regime of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and had first election on the basis of its recommendation in 1967. Interestingly, this exercise didn’t increase overall number of seats but decreased one from Kashmir to add in Jammu. Effectively, now Kashmir Valley had 42 seats, Jammu 31 and Ladakh two.
The second delimitation, on the basis of 1971 census, was carried out in 1973 under Syed Mir Qasim government of the Congress party and first elections on its recommendations were held in 1977 which returned Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to power. The 1973 delimitation made an addition of only single seat taking the total number to 76. This new seat was added to Jammu. Thus the effective strength for 1977 election was as follow: 42 seats in Kashmir, 32 in Jammu and two in Ladakh.
This delimitation process of 1973 had also caused uproar in Jammu against the distribution pattern. As per 1971 census Kashmir’s population was 2435701 and Jammu’s 2075640. Average population per constituency in Jammu came about to be 66956 persons while in Kashmir it was 57992 persons.
After the completion of 1981 Census the Delimitation Commission, under the Chairmanship of Justice J.N. Wazir. The Commission had to be reconstituted more than twice again due to the political instability in the decade of 1980s –including Sheikh Abdullah’s death in 1982, the toppling of Farooq government in 1984, the sack of GM Shah government and return of Farooq in 1986 and general elections 1987.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Delimitation Commission, appointed in 1982, Justice J.N. Wazir had passed away in 1983 necessitating the first reconstitution of the Commission under Justice Mian Jalaluddin.
Finally in 1989, the Jammu and Kashmir legislature made an amendment in the state Constitution by which 11 more seats were added taking the strength of the House to 87. The Delimitation Commission was now given the task of allocating these seats taking into account the relevant factors of population, area and topography etc.
A few months later the Farooq Abdullah government resigned on January 19, 1990, following appointment of Jagmohan as Governor. By this time the security situation in Kashmir had deteriorated and subsequently, the delimitation process was abandoned.
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Justice Mian Jalaludin resigned as chairman of the Commission in 1991 following controversy involving official and non-official members. Subsequently Justice K.K. Gupta was appointed as the chairman of Delimitation Commission.
On September 28, 1992 Justice K.K. Gupta Commission submitted its report to the Governor’s administration. The Commission recommended allocation of 46 seats to Kashmir, 37 to Jammu and four to Ladakh. Once again, these recommendations triggered massive protests in Jammu region which continued for about a month.
On October 28 and 29, 1992, the Jammu city and its adjoining districts observed a two-day long complete shutdown, forcing the P.V. Narasimha Rao government to intervene and ask Governor Lt General K.V. Krishna Rao to find a solution.
Since the State was under the Governor’s Rule and elections were nowhere in sight, the report remained in the cold for two years. Finally, General Rao’s administration asked Justice K.K Gupta Commission in August 1994 to start the whole exercise afresh and come up with new recommendations. This is the only instance of delimitation proposal withdrawn that this writer could gather in the public domain.
On April 24, 1995, the Justice K.K Gupta Commission submitted its delimitation recommendations to Gen Rao’s government at the Raj Bhawan in Jammu. Interestingly, barring a few inter-constituency cartographic changes, the 1995 report was more or less a mirror reflection of the 1992 report which allocated 46 seats to Kashmir, 37 to Jammu and two to Ladakh.