‘There is fear delimitation exercise in J&K may carve out new constituencies which ensure Hindu majority’
Centre took the step of holding all-party meeting with J&K leaders only due to certain international as well as domestic compulsions, Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin opined
Following the all-party meeting held on Thursday by PM Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah with leaders from J&K, there is speculation in certain quarters that the BJP-led Central government may be actively considering restoration of democracy and statehood to J&K.
However, many people feel that the meeting was just for optics, especially in view of the fact that Modi and Shah remained non-committal about a timeframe for the same.
Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Kashmir Times, the oldest English daily published from Jammu and Kashmir, feels that nearly two years after the abrogation of Article 370 and division of the state into two UTs, the government took the step of holding the meeting only due to certain ‘international as well as domestic compulsions’.
Talking to NH, Bhasin said that only time will tell whether the all-party meeting will lead to any substantial outcome. But the “non-committal” attitude of the Central government and “insistence on delimitation” certainly raises doubts over its intentions, she said.
Explaining why she was not very confident about the end result, Bhasin said, “After listening to everybody, it is clear that the government’s focus was on delimitation, not on statehood”.
“They said first delimitation will be done, then elections with UT status and then statehood…So they were completely non-committal to anything that was laid down on the table, whether it was restoration of Article 370 or providing jobs to locals or return of Kashmiri pandits. Nothing was spelt out,” she said.
“If the idea is to restore democratic processes, delimitation is not known to be the foundational basis for any democracy. The foundational basis for any democracy is the democratic rights of the people. They do not exist in the Valley today or in Jammu also,” Bhasin said.
Asked about the purpose behind the emphasis on delimitation as some people felt that it was aimed at cutting J&K based parties to size and downgrade the influence of NC and PDP in national politics, Bhasin said, “There is certainly some anxiety about that. Moreover, for the last two years, several BJP leaders have been floating suggestions like having PoK seats in the state assembly which have been lying vacant since 1950.”
“Increasing the constituencies of Jammu region by conducting delimitation on the basis of area…it does not happen anywhere. It always happens on the basis of population. Certain belts in Jammu, particularly Chenab valley, have a population demographic of 40:60 (40 percent Hindus, 60 percent Muslims)…there is fear that they will carve out new constituencies which ensure Hindu majority. If this logic of area is to be applied, Ladakh would have the maximum number of seats,” she said.
Highlighting various reasons including “international compulsions” behind the change in Modi government’s Kashmir policy, Bhasin said, “The government wants to go ahead with elections in J&K. Plus, there is a compelling need because of international pressure also to tone down the rhetoric on Kashmir and bring normalcy and democratic rights and start a political process.”
During the all-party meeting, the Modi government had said it was committed to restoring statehood to J&K. Opposition parties represented by 14 leaders had put forth various demands which included restoration of Article 370. The government, however did not give any timeframe, either for conducting elections or the restoration of statehood. Modi and Shah maintained silence when the issue of Article 370 came up.
Published: 26 Jun 2021, 1:17 PM