Delimitation Commission comprising of Chairperson Retd. Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ex-Officio Member Shri Sushil Chandra (Election Commissioner), Dy Election commissioner and their team held an hour-long meeting with Displaced Kashmiri Pandit Members namely Dr Romesh Raina, Dr Manorama Bakshi, Sh Sanjay Sapru and Ms Alka Lahori meeting to seek their views/suggestions on delimitation process of J&K & Political empowerment of marginalized Kashmiri Pandit Community.
The team submitted a memorandum to Mrs Desai. The commission was informed to consider institutional protection to safeguard the electoral prospects of the hapless KP minority now living in exile for the last 32 years. Team reminded the commission that this body could be laying guiding parameters for providing representation to the unrepresented people of the place . This has become possible only after the passage of the Re-organization of J&K act of 2019,its implications for the restoration of faith and confidence in the displaced people have become more pronounced as there is a wide spread belief that the discrimination against them will come to an end by a judicious delimitation process. The team urged the Chairperson and team to create a legitimate electoral space at all the conceivable areas of electoral activity of UT for KPs. The highlights of the discussion were based on the recommendations and suggestions in the memorandum attached for your perusal.
The Chairperson Delimitation and Election commissioner appreciated the suggestions put by the team and said the presentation and the evidential data shared by the team .
The team under the given circumstances impressed upon the Delimitation Commission for an out of box solution to the vexed issue. While taking note of the suggestion , Commission in its concluding remarks urged the team to remain connected in order to find a workable solution to the issue of electoral representation of displaced Kashmiri Pandit Community .
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MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO JUSTICE MRS.RANJANA DESAI HONOURABLE CHAIRPERSON DELIMITATION COMMISSION UT OF INDIA
NEW DELHI 26-03-2021.
The magnitude of the agony and trauma of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits who have been languishing in forced exile for more than three decades is too profound to be narrated .Needless to mention that our miseries have been compounded by the callous indifference and apathy shown by successive governments both at the centre and the state, further instilling a sense of insecurity impacting their desire to return back to their homes.
The most vital issue staring in the face of people is the quiet resolution of anti-minority forces to divest the UT permanently of Kashmiri Pandits . To prevent such a thing from happening and adding one more black chapter to this great human tragedy, We, The Displaced People hereby approach you and this august institution for seeking justice for this beleaguered community.
BRIEF ELECTORAL HISTORY OF KASHMIRI PANDITS:
The genuine electoral history and the participation of people as a whole in the elections commences from 1951 with the formation of the Constituent Assembly of J&K that came into existence on May 1,1951. As you must be aware that the total strength of the Legislative Assembly in 1951 stood at 75 and out of the total number of elected Legislative members there were three Kashmiri Pandits who were also elected– Pt.Sham Lal Saraf from Habba Kadal const; Pt.Durga Prassad Dhar from Kulgam and Pt.Janki Nath Kokroo from Kothar Constituency. Out of these three constituencies, Habba Kadal was predominantly a Hindu dominated constituency making it possible for the Kashmiri Pandit to taste the success at the hustings. Tankipora was another adjacent constituency with sizeable Kashmiri Pandits but because of its extended boundaries made it difficult for the Pandits to replicate that feat from this constituency.
This trend of sending minimum two Kashmiri Pandits to Legislative Assembly continued for quite sometime, even 1967 elections saw two Kashmiri Pandits getting elected from safe constituencies like Sh.SK Koul from Habba Kadal and Sh.MN Koul from Devsar. However, though late seventies witnessed a gradual erosion in electoral politics where Kashmiri Pandits were pushed to the electoral margins and their political space squeezed; yet noteworthy here to mention is that in 1996 at the peak of militancy in the valley Sh.PL Handoo (Former Law Minster J&K) won from Habba Kadal constituency which he had represented even in 1987 also .Thereafter Sh.Raman Mattoo became MLA from Habba Kadal in 2002 but it was more of a fluke because of the election boycott by Kashmiri Muslims.
Pertinent to mention here is that the Delimitation of J&K’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by its Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.Of real substance is the perception that when the power equations in the State changed in the mid Seventies with the ascendence of sheikh Mohd Abdullah on the political scene, an amendment to the section 47 of the J&K constitution was undertaken which raised the strength of Assembly from 76 to 87.Resultantly,a pro-Kashmir power structure came into being that operated in the State and produced imbalances . Driven by such a desire also witnessed gerrymandering of the Constituencies.
This imparted an impression of unjust discrimination against minorities aimed to dilute constituencies with political considerations ,that had a telling effect on the electoral prospects of Kashmiri Pandits as much of the Habbakadal had lost its electoral relevance for the community, thus making it difficult for any Kashmiri Pandit to enter J&K Assembly ,late Tika Lal Taploo is a worthy example to quote in this regard who tried his utmost to win an election from this constituency till he was alive but had to eat a humble pie.
Delimitation Process Based on 2011 Censes:
In this regard,it is significant to draw your kind attention towards 2011 Census, wherein no door to door survey was conducted, however the records reveal that the population of Hindus in Kashmir stood at 1.64 lakhs, with a sex ratio as 10:1. This sex ratio, compared to national figure of 1000:940, is a complete farce. According to 2001 census, Kashmir Hindus formed 1.84 % of Kashmir population. It further states that 1.5 lakh to 3 lakh Kashmiri Pandits were displaced to Jammu and other parts of India due to militancy. It is pertinent to mention that after Hindu exodus in 1989-90, two censuses were conducted, i.e., in 2001 and 2011 both have underplayed the absence of Kashmiri Pandits which has further added to their grievances.
Source:- JK Census Data 2011/ 2001 .
The political impact of the above mentioned can be gauged from the fact that there were 47 Kashmiri Pandit candidates from 23 constituencies in the fray in 2009 Assembly elections and all of them lost .It was a great setback for the displaced community going without any of its elected representatives in the J&K legislature With this trend the clock had come a full circle and ever since the bellegeaured community has been without any political representative to take up its issues of concern especially at a time when it is needed the most . At this Juncture ,the Kashmiri Pandits are being relegated to the position of people of no consequence because of multiple factors of which electoral irrelevance is a major component.
Madam ,the official figures reveal that around 41,117 migrant families from Kashmir are registered in Jammu, and 21,000 others in Delhi and other states. Of the total migrant families living in Jammu, 37,128 are Hindus, 2,246 Muslims, and 1,758 Sikhs . It implies that the entire mass of the community registered in Nineties as migrants will be forced to live as refugees in their own country and remain perpetually unrepresented. kashmiri Pandit society cannot regain its full vigour or progress to its full potential unless its genuine concerns like political representation ,a must for their resettlement is addressed properly.
OUR PRAYER :
In the light of above submission ,we seek an institutional protection to safeguard the electoral prospects of the hapless minority now living in exile . With the Delimitation Commission in place ,there exists a body that could be laying guiding parameters for providing representation to the unrepresented people of the place .This has become possible only after the passage of the Re-organization of J&K act of 2019,its implications for the restoration of faith and confidence in the displaced people have become more pronounced as there is a wide spread belief that the discrimination against them will come to an end by a judicious delimitation process.
To rectify the non representation ,we, through the process of Delimitation ,urge you to create a legitimate electoral space at all the conceivable areas of electoral activity of UT . Implicit in it is to exercise the power of the Commission to settle the politically unsettled concern of Kashmiri Pandits which means their rightful participation in mainstream political life of the place through a guaranteed electoral mechanism.
It is also important to draw your kind attention towards the Sangha Constituency of Sikkim which has no boundaries as explained “The 32-Sangha Assembly constituency has no geographical boundary and it is only one-of-its-kind constituency in the country reserved for the monastic community (Sangha),” the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Sikkim states on its website.
Buddhist monks registered with 51 monasteries in the State are the only ones who can contest and cast their votes for the unique Assembly seat. R. Telang, CEO of Sikkim, said that the number of voters for the Sangha seat this year is 3,293, which includes 3,224 (monks) and 69 (nuns).
Provision for the nomination of three legislatures by Government of India to Puducherry Assembly is significant to quote here for your ready reference as that supports our contention .In Parliament also , the President can appoint 12 members to Rajya Sabha . These members enjoy the same voting rights as elected members , except that they can’t vote in the election of the President. Until last year, the President could also appoint two members to Lok Sabha from the Anglo-Indian community. These members too, had the right to vote on all matters, except the election of the President.
Madam , our case is too strong and the circumstances very similar that call for immediate remedial measures and above mentioned constitutional practices are before you to be considered.
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE DISPLACED KASHMIRI PANDITS .
MRS. ALKA LAHORI
Dr. MANORAMA BAKHSHI