PDP stays away from meeting
SRINAGAR, July 6: Barring the People’s Democratic Party, almost all political parties in Kashmir today participated in the delimitation exercise by meeting the five-member panel that is on four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
Barring PDP, members of all the political parties met the panel here at Grand Lalit hotel where they put forth their suggestions vis-à-vis ongoing delimitation process.
Five-member panel of the Commission reached Srinagar in the afternoon and drove straight to Grand Lalit where they held a series of meetings with the political parties. The panel is on four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, during which it will meet the political parties and also District Election Officers (DEOs) of all the 20 districts of the J&K.
The PDP stayed away from meeting the Panel and sent a letter to the Commission wherein they gave reasons for not meeting them.
Surprisingly, National Conference leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi lauded the PDP for staying away from the proceedings of the Delimitation Commission, saying “it is never too late to stand for your rights”.
“It’s never too late to stand for your rights. Unambiguity is the way forward. Hopping this letter reflects the in-house consensus. The message of the letter is appreciable”, he tweeted.
Several delegations from political parties including National Conference (NC), Congress, Peoples Conference (PC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), CPI (M), Apni Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) met the Panel.
National Conference (NC) leaders led by Abdul Rahim Rather met the Panel and presented a memorandum wherein it has stated that Delimitation exercise would be a credible effort in strengthening democracy only after full Statehood is restored to J&K.
Party’s provincial president, Nasir Aslam Wani told reporters that the exercise should have been at least delayed till the Supreme Court (SC) gives any verdict with regard to the petitions filed before it regarding August 5, 2019 decisions.
Wani said that if the Government has made its mind with regard to the delimitation exercise, the process should be completed in a transparent manner so that the people are taken into confidence.
Soon after meeting the Panel, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief, Ghulam Ahmad Mir told reporters that the party has made it clear during the meeting that it will utter anything until and unless the report compiled by the Commission in last over one and a half year is presented to them.
“We met the Panel and raised several issues including those, which are not the domain of the Commission. But, we discussed every issue that took place since August 2019. We presented a detailed memorandum to the panel as well,” Mir said. However, he said that the party will speak or give suggestions vis-à-vis delimitation only after receiving any document prepared by the Commission so far.
The party leader and former Bureaucrat, Vinod Kaul, who was also accompanying Mir also gave a presentation explaining technicalities involved in the delimitation process. He stressed that area, population, geography and connectivity should be made basis for any re-organization.
Peoples Conference (PC) leader Khursheed Aalam told reporters that the party has told the Panel that no steps should be taken that would further alienate the people of J&K.
“Delimitation exercise should be done as per the population. Land, deserts and stones don’t need representation. It is the people who need representation and the decision should be taken as per the population. The report should be compiled on the basis of the 2011 census,” he said.
A senior Apni Party leader said that the party talked about apprehensions of people that the Commission has already made its decision and are now buying the time now. “The panel assured us that every suggestion will be taken seriously,” he said.
He added that the party was not happy with the Delimitation exercise, but there is a need to put forth suggestions as staying away will not yield any result. “We also wanted the process to be stopped till 2026. But, as the process has begun, there is a need to put forth the suggestions in the interests of the people,” he said.
CPI (M) delegation led by its J&K Secretary, Ghulam Nabi Malik called on the Panel and presented its viewpoint and stated that restoration of full Statehood is must for any electoral exercise. The delegation has reiterated the party’s stand on August 5, 2019 decisions.
“However, as you are visiting J&K, we found it appropriate to meet you and present our viewpoint on the Delimitation exercise. We are not against Delimitation, but wanted it to be carried along with the rest of the country. In 2002, J&K Assembly had amended the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and put a freeze on Delimitation till 2026. The decision was in line with the pan-India freeze on Delimitation till the first census after 2026. Both Jammu and Kashmir High Court and the Supreme Court had upheld the decision of freeze on Delimitation,” they said.
“We also believe that any electoral exercise must create confidence among people and Assembly elections, whenever they are held, must be conducted only after restoration of full Statehood to J&K. It is not any favour, but our Constitutional right. What is at stake is the credibility of the institutions and process itself. For that this exercise has to be seen as free, fair and just. For any electoral exercise restoration of full Statehood is a must,” they added.
Sofi Yousuf, who led a four-member delegation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that the party leaders have pitched for granting some constituencies in South Kashmir and Karnah, Tangdhar and other far-off areas to ST as the areas mostly have dwellers from the similar community. “We hope that the Commission will come up with a good decision,” he said.
And the PDP didn’t meet the Delimitation Commission, calling the exercise as pre-planned in favour of a particular party and aimed to further hurt the interests of people of J&K.
“On 5th of August 2019, the Constitutional and democratic values of our country were trampled upon with the people of Jammu & Kashmir being robbed of their legitimate constitutional & democratic rights by means of abrogation of Article 370 and 35 (A) of the Indian constitution, illegally and unconstitutionally,” party’s general secretary Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura said in a letter to Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai, the former judge of the Supreme Court of India who heads the Delimitation Commission, presently on 4-day visit to J&K.
“The day also saw the people of J&K being humiliated and demeaned by downgrading & bifurcation of an almost 200-year old state, an act, with no precedence in the Independent India,” reads the letter.
“The Reorganization Act being a product of the same process, we are of the considered opinion that the Delimitation Commission lacks constitutional and legal mandate in the first place and its very existence and objectives have left every ordinary resident of J&K with many questions,” he said, adding, “there are apprehensions that the delimitation exercise is part of the overall process of political disempowerment of the people of J&K that the Government of India has embarked on.”
“At the very core of these apprehensions is the process through which the commission has been constituted and the fact that while the delimitation process across the country has been put on hold till 2026, J&K has been made an exception. There are apprehensions that the process is aimed at realizing the political vision of a particular political party in J&K wherein, like other things, the views and wishes of the people of J&K would be considered the least”, the letter read.
“It is a widespread belief that contours & outcome of the exercise hare pre-planned and the excercise per say is mere formality. The very intent is under question,” he said.
Referring to PDP’s participation in All Party Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party said it did not want to come “in way of what could have been an initiation of a reconciliation process aimed at restoring the rights of people of J&K.”
“Taking this opportunity, we would like to put on record that despite the utter humiliation of the people of J&K, undermining of our constitutional and democratic rights, vilification and incarceration of political leadership and ordinary citizens, when the Prime Minister convened an all party meeting in New Delhi on 24th of June, we didn’t let our hurt come in way of what could have been an initiation of a reconciliation process aimed at restoring the rights of people of J&K,” he said, adding, “Hence, we participated in the meeting. In the meeting we emphasized on the need to reach out to the people of J&K and suggested specific confidence building measures that could lead to breaking the ice in the process of addressing the massive trust deficit between New Delhi and J&K.”
He further said: “We are disappointed to see that after the all party meeting nothing has moved and no effort has been made to bring ease into the lives of people, giving credence to those, who had in the first instance, called the meeting a mere photo opportunity.”
Leave aside acting on the suggested confidence building measures, he said, the Government of India has continued with its “daily dictates to the people of J&K including the recent amendments and orders including those making every person a suspect (Govt employees antecedents verification order) and deepening the divide between two regions of J&K (the order related to Darbar Move).”
“In view of above mentioned facts and issues, our party has decided to stay away from this process and not be part of some exercise, the outcome which is widely believed to be pre-planned & which may further hurt the interests of our people,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has urged the Delimitation Commission to reserve five seats for members of the Sikh community in J&K Legislative Assembly.
Senior SAD leader and former MP Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra handed over a letter written by Party President Sukhbir Singh Badal in this regard to Delimitation Commission Chairman Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai in Srinagar today.
The SAD has urged the Commission to favorably consider reserving three seats for the Sikh community in Jammu and two seats in Srinagar. The Commission assured to consider the demand sympathetically.
The SAD chief, in his communiqu to the Delimitation Commission, said several times, including at the time of partition of the country, promises were made to the Sikh population of J&K that counter checks would be created in the democratic process to ensure their social and economic well being.
It was even proposed that a definite number of seats would be reserved for members of the Sikh community in the J&K legislature on the pattern of that done for the Anglo Indian community in parliament and State assemblies.
Sadly the then Congress Government did not honour any of the promises made to the Sikh community post partition.
Asking the Commission to right this historical wrong, Badal said reservation of seats for Sikhs in the J&K UT would ensure the voice of the community was taken into consideration while making executive decisions. He said Sikhs in J&K had been complaining since long that they were being left behind in the development process because there was no reservation for Sikhs in jobs in J&K despite their minority status.