‘Population, geography, topography, area, physical features, contiguity must be considered’
Political parties and civil society members, across the ideological divide, demanded an increase in Assembly segments in the Chenab Valley in the Jammu province on Thursday, during their meeting with the J&K Delimitation Commission, headed by Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai.
BJP’s Sunil Sharma, who met the panel along with five other leaders, suggested that the fresh electoral rolls and not the 2011 Census should be the basis of delimitation.
“The 2011 Census was fudged. Earlier, constituencies were identified to please two families. Our suggestion is that the population should not be the sole criteria. The terrain, its vastness, accessibility and scattered population should be taken into consideration. The Chenab Valley should be seen as per the watershed of the river Chenab and accordingly new constituencies should be identified,” Mr. Sharma said.
J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina suggested that the representation for Jammu should be adequate after the delimitation process.
“We demanded political reservation for POJK (Pakistan Occupied J&K) refugees by unfreezing the eight Assembly seats, three seats for Kashmiri Pandits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other neglected people,” he said.
The panel, besides the political parties, also listened to the views of the lawyers and the NGOs in Kishtwar.
National Conference (NC) provincial leader Devender Singh Rana also submitted a proposal to the panel in Jammu and echoed the BJP demands in framing a new criterion to delimit constituencies.
“Delimitation should be as per the constitutional framework based on the basic tenets of delimitation, population, geography, topography, area, physical features, contiguity, convenience of administrative units and facilities of easy communication and approachability of public convenience,” the memorandum reads.
Interestingly, the NC memorandum submitted in Srinagar is in contrast to the Jammu memorandum. In Srinagar, the NC leaders demanded that population should be the sole parameter to delineate constituencies and did not seek any reservation for the Schedule Tribes and the Schedule Castes.
However, Mr. Rana, in the memorandum, said there were geographical and topographical challenges in the Jammu region and certain areas are far flung, inaccessible, remote, backward and mountainous.
“The Scheduled Castes communities and the Scheduled Tribes must get adequate judicious representation. Reservation should be based on settled criteria, which should be followed in a transparent manner.”
Top Congress leaders, G.M. Saroori and Vikar Rasool, who also met the panel in Kishtwar demanded three more constituencies for the Chenab Valley, comprising the Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban belt, and stressed that “population as in plains should not determine new constituencies in uneven terrains”.
“Despite being bigger in area than the Kashmir valley, the Chenab Valley has not got its due so far. We demanded three additional segments be carved out to declare Padder, Dachan-Marwah and Gool as new constituencies,” Mr. Saroori.
The Congress also expressed fears that constituencies will be created on the religious lines. “It should not be that Hindu pockets are separated from the Muslim pockets. The natural borders and not religious lines should be focussed to create any new constituency,” Mr. Rasool said.
The panel will conclude its four-day consultation tour on July 9 and will meet more parties from Jammu’s Samba-Kathua belt. It’s mandated to identify seven more constituencies in J&K ahead of the elections.