By Saima Afzal
On 5 August 2019, the Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that granted the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in terms of autonomy and its ability to formulate laws for the state’s permanent residents. The former state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of Ladakh (without a legislature) and Jammu-Kashmir (with a legislature). This move was taken to promote and spread the Hindutva ideology in the illegally occupied majority Muslim area as it was considered a roadblock in the Hindutva project.
Furthermore, In March 2020, the delimitation commission was established by the Modi government. The commission has delivered two drafts December 2021 and February 2022. Now, the J&K Delimitation Panel Signs Final Order on 05 May 2022, and proposed six additional assembly seats for the Jammu region and only one more seat for Kashmir It was considered as an “assault on political centrality and supremacy” of Kashmir in J&K’s politics and taken as a part of the series of measures started by the BJP-led government from 5th August 2019 to disempower Kashmiris of IIOJK”.
Therefore, this shattered the rationale pushed by the Indian government that the ‘delimitation effort’ was aimed to ’empower’ the local population. However, in reality, the new electoral boundaries would further disempower, marginalize and divide the people of the occupied territory. It would only pave the way for installing yet another puppet regime backed by the BJP-RSS combine. However, any illegal, unilateral, and mischievous attempt by India to allow disproportionately higher electoral representation to the Hindu population to the detriment of the Muslim population, is a mockery of all norms of democracy, morality, and India’s obligations under the UN Security Council Resolutions and international law.
Amid mounting international concerns over the Indian occupational forces’ Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK, Indian PM Modi visited IIOJK on 24th Apr 2022. This was his first visit since the abrogation of Article 370. Modi visited IIOJK on the occasion of Panchayati Raj Diwas (the national day of the Panchayati Raj System in India). National Panchayati Raj Day provides an opportunity for leaders and others to directly interact with the representatives of the panchayats or village heads across the country. However, the socio-political experts opined that the visit’s real hidden agenda was in the context of pacifying the internationalization of the Kashmir issue in the wake of Indian HRAs in IIOJK and political consolidation of IIOJK by BJP through political coercion/ demographic altercations.
Subsequently, the argument has been validated with the signing of the J&K Delimitation Panel Signs Final Order on 05 May 2022, the order will be put into effect from a date announced by the central government Paving Way for Assembly Polls. Pakistan has rejected the Indian illegal move because, through this effort, India only wanted to lend ‘legitimacy’ to its illegal actions of August 5, 2019. It indicates the ulterior motive of the Indian government was evident from the fact that, under the garb of so-called delimitation, the representation of Muslims in the re-designated constituencies had been reduced to their disadvantage.
It indicates that the real motive of Modi’s visit was to muster support for the finalization/ implementation of the J&K Delimitation Commission report. Modi kicked off a convincing campaign to develop a favorable public opinion for the acceptance of recommendations of the commission. The commission has been tasked with redrawing the boundaries of assembly constituencies post the splitting of the state into two Union territories.
Consequently, the commission’s report had come up with sharp criticism, especially from the Kashmir-based political parties, after it had recommended an increase of six seats in Jammu province and one in Kashmir. In the report, the commission maintained the number of Lok Sabha constituencies at five but increased the assembly seats from the present 83 to 90 (adding six in Jammu and one in Kashmir). Apart from promising to hold elections soon, the PM had told the leaders that J&K’s statehood would be restored after the situation returns to normal.
Traditionally, the BJP/ RSS government intends to steer/ manipulate political factors in its favor in total disregard of the aspirations of the people of IIOJK and UN resolutions. India has deliberately done the delimitation, so that it can hold and win elections and legitimize its illegal moves since 5 Aug 2019 in IIOJK to convince the world of its resolution to the democratic values and processes. Modi’s plan to impose Hindu Raj in IIOJK by political coercion, rig the elections through a politically oriented redrawing of constituencies, and throw up a Hindu Chief Minister in disputed Muslim-majority Kashmir has been exposed, the people of IIOJK, its political leadership, and international stakeholders will out rightly reject any such attempt made by the Indian government.
The Kashmiri leadership has termed the report as a blatant move of “Gerrymandering” to redraw the limits of constituencies to create a Hindu majority. In representative democracies, Gerrymandering refers to the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating an undue advantage for a party, group, or socio-economic class within the constituency. Two principal tactics are used in gerrymandering: “cracking” and “packing”. The people of IIOJK see a dark future under the Indian occupation and now they want to break the shackles of slavery forced upon them illegally by Indian expansionist designs. The Indian justice system has completely failed to stand with the oppressed rather it has become complacent to the culprits.
In nutshell, the Indian government must refrain from bringing any demographic changes in the occupied territory and must hold a free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices as enshrined in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
* The writer is an Islamabad based analyst and can be reached at [email protected].