Yes, finally, the Delimitation Commission of India stood the test in terms of the concerns and aspirations of the Kashmiri Pandits, the indigenous people of Kashmir, presently living in exile due to the ethnic cleansing in the valley. This author raised a question publicly only a few days back, i.e. ‘Will the Delimitation Commission stand the test of Kashmiri Pandits’. And the reply came forth on 5th May 2022. One more big day after 5th August 2019 for the people of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory.
The Delimitation Commission in its official press release mentioned the recommendations it made to the government of India in respect of the Kashmiri Pandit community, which were confirmed by one of the members of the Commission while talking to this author. It said:
“During the public hearing, the Commission received a number of representations from the Kashmiri migrants and the displaced persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The delegations of Kashmiri migrants represented before the Commission that they were persecuted and forced to live in exile as refugees in their own country for the last three decades. It was urged that in order to preserve their political rights, seats may be reserved for them in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Parliament. The Displaced persons from PoJK also requested the Commission to reserve a few seats for them in J&K Legislative Assembly. Accordingly, the Delimitation Commission also made the following recommendations to the Central Government.
1. Provision of at least two members (one of them must be a female) from the community of Kashmiri Migrants in the Legislative Assembly and such members may be given power at par with the power of nominated members, of the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Puducherry.
2. The Central Government may consider giving the Displaced Persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir some representation in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, by way of the nomination of representatives of the Displaced Persons from Pakistan, occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.
I have been consistently saying that the process of delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir will test the intent of the State of India in regard to the Kashmiri Pandits. Since the Delimitation Commission and the Election Commission of India are very important two organs of the State of India, therefore, the Delimitation Commission Report coupled with the recommendations made by it to the government of India are ample proof of the fact that the State of India hasn’t failed in respect of Kashmiri Pandits, this time. The recommendations have, undoubtedly, empowered the government of India and the Parliament of India to take big strides eventually in this context to empower the community of Kashmiri Pandits, the children of lesser gods.
Thanks a lot, hon’ble Commission, you have done your job. I well remember the words of the Chairperson, Justice (retd.) Ranjana Desai when she told us in our first official meeting with you in Delhi last year in March that ‘your presentation has a substance and we will need certain more documents’. It definitely reflected the sense of purpose of the Delimitation Commission of India, however, it had to exhibit its intent too.
Our delegation was candid enough every time regarding our resolve to get the concerns of the Kashmiri Pandits, the persecuted class of citizens who are forced to live as refugees in their own country, registered and recognised. Thanks again for your deep study, observation, research and solution to the subject. I also take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to you for addressing the concerns and aspirations of the PoJK displaced people as well. This makes the whole exercise indeed historical and path-breaking too.
Out of the four examples that were put before you as precedence, you have chosen the best as per your judgement. The Pudducherry Legislative Assembly of nominations is definitely one of the most formidable solutions. The other three solutions were, Sangha reserved floating constituency of Sikkim, Nomination for Anglo-Indians in the Lok Sabha and the J&K Assembly nominations for two female members.
It would be perfectly in order here to dwell upon the recommendations made by the Commission in order to take the discourse ahead. The Commission has categorically said that ‘provisions be made for at least two members from the community of Kashmiri migrants……..’ for nominations to the Assembly. We would appeal to the government that five members may be nominated including one from the female category and the other from the Kashmiri Sikh community. Likewise, three members from the PoJK displaced people may also be nominated along with.
In the Pudducherry case, there are 3 nominated members with voting powers in the Assembly and the provision and procedure both have been upheld by the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court respectively. There are 30 elected MLAs in the House of Pudducherry. On the basis of the proportionate equation, the J&K Assembly can have a total of nine to ten nominated members in a house of 90 elected members. The total nominated members can be like this: Women members: 2, Kashmiri Pandits: 4 (one female), PoJK: 3 and Kashmiri Sikhs: 1. Thus with this total of 10 nominated members, the effective strength of the Legislative Assembly of J&K would be 100.
Since the government is required to take the recommendations of the Commission to their logical conclusion, it would be in order to make amendments to the laws of the land in the parliament in this connection. This can happen when the report and recommendations made by the Commission are tabled on the floor of the House. This is possible in the ensuing Monsoon session of the parliament. Therefore, it becomes important to take this battle of struggle to the next level, i.e to the PMO, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary affairs.
While concluding, it needs to be mentioned that well begun is half done. The Commission also has a moral responsibility to ensure that its report and recommendations see the light of the day. For Kashmiri Pandits and the PoJK refugees, it is surely a history in making that their representatives will have to pursue up to the last. However, we lastly thank you for providing us with a strong platform to take our march ahead in this connection. It is now for the government headed by our beloved Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to realise the objectives set by the hon’ble Delimitation Commission.
(The author is a senior BJP and KP leader, author and columnist and can be reached at [email protected])