Pro-India parties show reluctance to participate in delimitation exercise

Srinagar, July 07 (KMS): In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, for the first time after repeal of Article 370 in 2019, the political parties in the Valley Tuesday participated in the delimitation exercise by meeting the India-appointed five-member panel that is on four-day visit to the territory.

On the first day of Delimitation Commission’s visit to IIOJK, barring PDP and Awami National Conference, all the political parties met the panel at a local hotel in Srinagar where they put forth their suggestions vis-à-vis ongoing delimitation process.

According to reports, the five-member panel reached Srinagar in the afternoon and drove straight to the hotel where the series of meetings with the political parties began at 03:30 PM. The panel is on four-day visit to IIOJK, during which it will meet the political parties and also District Election Officers (DEOs) of 20 districts of the territory.

Notably, PPD announced to stay away from meeting the panel and sent a letter to the commission wherein the party mentioned detailed reasons for not meeting the panel. Pertinently, the political parties in IIOJK showed reluctance vis-à-vis participating in the exercise, terming the whole process as ‘unconstitutional’.

Several delegations from political parties including National Conference (NC), Congress, Peoples Conference (PC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), CPI-M, Apni Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) met the panel.

Meanwhile, National Conference (NC) leaders led by Abdul Rahim Rathar 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 IIOJK.

NC’s provincial president, Nasir Aslam Wani, told reporters that the exercise should have been at least delayed till the Indian Supreme Court (SC) gives any verdict with regard to the petitions filed before it regarding o5 August, 2019 decisions.

Wani also 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 brought into confidence.

Soon after meeting the panel, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) Chief, Ghulam Ahmad Mir told media persons 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.

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.

Apni Party leader, Rafi Ahmad Mir, while sharing the details 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 5 August, 2019 decisions.

However, they told the commission members, 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 India, they said. “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.