As expected, newly appointed Home Minister Amit Shah reportedly hit the ground with the Kashmir issue. According to news agency IANS, Shah has many crucial things on his agenda including redrawing the long pending delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. A report by Times Now suggests on Tuesday, the Home Ministry deliberated upon the proposal to lift the freeze on delimitation in the state. Shah held a meeting with J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik to discuss the issue.
The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was created in 1939. The Sheikh Abdullah government in the state brought 43 seats in Kashmir, 30 for Jammu and two for Ladakh region. At present, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has 87 seats of which Jammu has 37, Kashmir has 46 and Ladakh has four.
Zee News reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is mulling the appointment of a delimitation commission to study the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly constituencies and come up with its recommendations. The panel will take into account the population and area of different regions of the state and come up with relevant recommendations.
In 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the freeze imposed by Jammu and Kashmir government on delimitation of assembly constituencies in the state till 2026 and dismissed the plea that it violated the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
Rejecting J&K Panther’s Party chief Bhim Singh’s argument that it deprived Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes the right to represent the Valley, the apex court in a judgment said courts cannot interfere in matters of delimitation as there was an express Constitutional bar on such interference.
By an amendment to Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K made in 2002, the state decided to freeze the delimitation exercise till 2026. The last census operation in the state was completed in 2001 but the delimitation was done in 1995.
According to the 2011 census, the total population of Jammu Division was 5,378,538 of which Dogras were the dominant group comprising 62.55 per cent of the population. Jammu has 25.93 per cent of the area and 42.89 per cent of the population.
Against this, Kashmir Division or the intermountain valley population in 2011 was 6,888,475 with 96.40 per cent Muslims. Though it has 15.73 per cent of the state's area, it holds 54.93 per cent of the population. Ladakh has 58.33 per cent of the area accounting for 2.18 per cent of the population, a mere 274,289 people reside there of which 46.40 per cent are Muslims, 12.11 per cent Hindus and 39.67 per cent Buddhists.