As a stakeholder in the ongoing process of Delimitation of the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly, the POJK Refugee Forum has called for opening up the 24 frozen seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.
The Forum recently made valid demands on this subject with Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, Chairperson, Delimitation Commission for UT of J&K, Election Commission of India. In a letter, dated March 20, 2022, the Forum has explained how the Delimitation Commission has ignored the rights, even existence of refugees/displaced persons from Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (POJK) in its report.
According to the Forum, the Commission has failed in its duty by keeping all the 24 seats, meant for POJK, vacant once again in the future Assembly structure. “These seats have been perpetually left vacant in the J&K Assembly in the past too to keep the POJK community out of the Constitutional process of democratic elections with the aim of handing over majority power in the hands of Kashmiri leaders, separatists and anti-Indian forces through the backdoor. In practical terms this amounts to disenfranchising the citizens of POJK who are patriotic citizens and integral part of India and of the State/UT of J&K,” says Forum convenor Vijay Kumar Gupta.
The Forum represents those Indian citizens who were driven out of that part of J & K which is now under illegal occupation of Pakistan. It is known as ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’ in India and as ‘Azad Kashmir’ in Pakistan. They migrated in 1947 as a result of Pakistan’s attack on their region of J&K after the State had formally joined the Republic of India.
To add insult to injury, POJK refugees and their descendants, living across India were denied their legitimate right to return and settle in their home State of J&K as a result of Article-370. They were deprived of the right of education in Government schools and higher institutions; the right to seek employment ; and even the right to vote or contest in elections for local municipal or panchayat bodies or the State Assembly
Unfortunately, soon after their arrival in J&K in 1947, most of these refugees were further turned away to nearby Punjab and other parts of India. It was done by the then State Government, led by late Sheikh Abdullah, on non-availability of rehabilitation facilities in the State. The hostile governments of J&K did not even issue official documents of identity and citizenship status to most of these ‘double refugees’ .
The forum wants all the 24 seats, assigned to POJK in the J&K Assembly, to be filled up from among the community of displaced persons from POJK and their descendants. Every eligible displaced person from POJK and their descendants must be given the right to participate in the Assembly elections of J&K as voter as well as candidate.
The POJK Refugee Forum has pointed out that all previous State Governments of J&K had played a nefarious role in systematically keeping the POJK displaced persons out of the electoral process of J&K because of communal and religious considerations. The Delimitation Commission was aware of the fact that almost 100 per cent of the members of this section were Hindus and Sikhs. Hence, any attempt to keep the 24-seats of POJK vacant amounts to disenfranchising members of these communities on communal/religious grounds. This is nothing short of direct violation of the Indian Constitution.
In an Assembly of 111 members, 24 seats have been kept vacant and the Kashmir Valley, which used to be already predominantly Muslim, was permanently armed with absolute majority of 46 seats, while Jammu was assigned 37 and Ladakh only 4 seats. After the genocide and expulsion of Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir Valley, all 46 (100 per cent) seats are now perpetuall occupied by Kashmiri Muslims in the J&K Assemblies. Over the past 70 years, this ‘Constitutional Fraud’ has created a political eco system in which only one section of the society (namely Muslim Kashmiris) have been deciding the fate of entire population of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Forum has described the present exercise of delimitation in J & K as “incomplete” as it is not in tune with the Constitution. It is an unfortunate oversight that would inadvertently keep the Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism alive in the UT of J& K. Hence, we demand that all seats, meant for POJK displaced persons in the J&K Assembly, must be filled and should be assigned to representatives from among the POJK displaced persons’ community.
In its earlier letter, dated July 29, 2020, to the Chairperson, Delimitation Commission for UT of J&K, Election Commission of India, the Forum had pointed out that the original, unified J&K population got scattered across India during the past over seven decades in search of livelihood and shelter.