Indian group proposes to redraw election map, Kashmir’s anxiety | Election News

India-controlled Kashmir Srinagar – A controversial proposal to redraw the election map of India-controlled Kashmir has caused anxiety and anger among Muslims in the region, who stated that the move was intended to “deprive” them of their power.

In March last year, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed a demarcation committee led by a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. Its task was to redefine the boundaries of electoral districts and send representatives to the state assembly.

On December 20, the group told its five associate members—three from the regional national conference and two from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—that it proposed to increase six parliamentary seats in Jammu and in Kashmir. The valley only adds one seat.

The Indian-controlled Kashmir State Assembly was dissolved in August 2018, one year ahead of New Delhi Repeal the law This grants limited autonomy to the disputed area and divides it into two federally administered territories-Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

What is delimitation?

Demarcation refers to the re-delineation of the boundaries of parliament or parliament constituencies based on changes in the population of a region.

In the political structure of the previous parliament, the valley had 46 seats and Jammu had 37. If the group’s proposal is accepted by the government, the valley will have 47 parliamentary seats, and the total number of Jammu will rise to 43.

In India, parliamentary districts divided by population constitute the basic unit for electing representatives to form the state government.

According to the 2011 census, India-controlled Kashmir has a population of 12.5 million, of which Muslims make up the majority, accounting for 68.31%, while Hindus account for 28.43%. The majority of the Hindu population is concentrated in the Jammu area.

India Kashmir election mapDuring the 2019 Indian-controlled Kashmir Anantnag General Election, an Indian policeman walked past people waiting to vote outside the polling station [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]

Although Indian law uses population as the basis for redefining political borders—a standard that has been generally accepted—the demarcation committee has adopted “geographical area and accessibility” as an important basis for the election map of the Himalayas.

According to calculations made by the expert group in its December 20 statement, the average population of a parliamentary seat in the Kashmir Valley is 146,000. However, a Jammu constituency can be divided from an area with an average of 125,000 inhabitants.

Experts say that the proposal to redistribute parliamentary seats is “highly biased”, which benefits Jammu and may make Muslims the only political minority in India where Muslims dominate.

In the last parliamentary election held in India-controlled Kashmir in 2014, the Indian Nationalist BJP won 25 of the 37 seats in the Jammu region, but not a single seat in the valley.

In the past 70 years, all chief ministers of Indian-controlled Kashmir have been Muslims.

However, having a Hindu chief minister has been a long-term commitment by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party to its supporters in Muslim-majority regions.

‘Division and powerlessness’

The committee’s proposal aroused anger and anxiety among Indian-controlled Kashmiri Muslim politicians and activists, who fear that most communities will be “deprived of their power and rights.”

They said that although the rest of India is frozen until 2026, these proposals are “ideologically colored” with the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party has accelerated the demarcation work in the region.

After india Cancel special status In the 2019 election of Indian-controlled Kashmir, it introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act to re-divide the constituency from the existing 83 seats into 90. The delimitation committee was established as part of the law.

In the reply to the group, three members of the National Assembly rejected its proposal, while members of the People’s Party welcomed it.

Hasnyin Masudi, a member of Parliament and associate member of the committee from the southern region of Indian-controlled Kashmir, told Al Jazeera: “The general priority of demarcation work is population.”

“This means that you are a representative of a certain number of people. If you follow the appropriate standards, the conclusion will be different and Kashmir will have more seats. But here, whether it is land law or employment, all these steps are for Deprive Kashmiris of their rights and rights.”

In the Muslim-majority area of ​​Jammu, the locals worry that the move is aimed at putting Hindus in a position of power by dividing Muslim-dominated electoral districts, thereby making them irrelevant in terms of numbers.

“This will not benefit the Muslims in Jammu.” Syed Asim Hashmi, a lawyer and politician in Dada district in Jammu, told Al Jazeera.

‘Political deprived’

On January 1, the Gupka People’s Union Declaration (PGD), an umbrella group composed of well-known pro-Indian political parties, established in 2019, plans to protest the group’s recommendations in the main city of Srinagar.

But most of its leaders, including the three former chief ministers of India-controlled Kashmir, were placed under house arrest by the authorities on the day of the protest.

Mehbooba Mufti, the last chief minister in the region to lead the government jointly with the People’s Party, told Al Jazeera that “they just want to destroy most of the communities here.”

“Most Muslim communities will be divided and deprived of power. It is part of the same agenda. They deprived us of our power by attacking our identity, our land, and our work. Now, we are politically deprived, “she says.

Ashok Koul, general secretary of the People’s Party in the region, refuted this concern and stated that the demarcation activities were “not based on any religious line”.

“The committee proposed seats in a scientific way. Population is not the only criterion, but there are other factors, such as accessibility,” Kaul told Al Jazeera.

“Jammu is very happy because it is fair to them based on accessibility and communication,” he said, adding that these proposals are currently only drafts. “Let’s see what happened.”

But Kashmir experts said that it is “near impossible” for the federal government to block the committee’s proposal.

Political analyst Sheikh Showkat Hussain stated that these proposals “conform to the trend of Muslims being deprived of power in India”.

“The standard everywhere is population. That’s why Uttar Pradesh (BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh) has the most seats. But in Kashmir, they take a different approach,” Hussein said.

“Therefore, anxiety and fear are natural because it is the only place where Muslims can hold power, despite the fact that the center is always under power,” he said, referring to India’s massive military presence in India. The area.

The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is the center of decades-long hostility between India and Pakistan. They claim to own all of the territory but dominate parts of it.

Since the region was deprived of limited autonomy and split into two federal jurisdictions in 2019, tensions between the two nuclear powers have escalated.