On 20th of August 2021, a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Sikhs led by this author met Dr. Jitendra Singh, MoS in PMO at New Delhi and presented to him a joint letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
The delegation requested the Minister that the letter may be presented to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi Ji for his favourable consideration and approval in context of the Delimitation exercise going on in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
It may be recalled that the KP delegation already met the Delimitation Commission in March and July this year at Delhi and Jammu respectively and made its presentations before them and also forwarded to them the documents they desired.
The joint letter is signed by around one thousand prominent members of the minorities of Kashmir including Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Sikhs & non-Kashmiri speaking Hindus of Kashmir living throughout the globe.
This is in connection with the plea for adequate representation of Ethnic minority, the Kashmiri Pandit (KP) Community and other minorities of Kashmir in the J&K Legislative Assembly and the Indian Parliament.
Some excerpts of the joint letter to the PM follow:
The Kashmiri Pandit (KP) community like those who live in the mainland are fortunate to have a Government, in Delhi, led by your good self which apart from being conscious of the nationalistic imperatives, is alive to the aspirations and sensitivities of 1.3 billion Indians, without any distinction of caste, creed or colour. Under the guiding principle of “SAB KAA SATH SAB KAA VIKAS SAB KA VISHWAS”, your Government is striving hard to better the lot of every Indian.
With your firm belief in carrying all sections together, on the road for nation’s development, we the members of Kashmiri Pandit Community, who are the Indegenous people of Kashmir, crave for your indulgence for the following submissions, and are sanguine that our Prime Minister will be kind enough to give considerate attention to these important long pending issues with the purpose of ensuring their timely and justifiable redressal.
More than 30 winters of Kashmir have now passed along with an equal number of very long mainland summers since the entire population of around 7 lakhs of highly literate and peace loving nationalist Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) were made to leave their ancestral homeland and subsequently forced to live in exile as refugees in their own country.
For all these years now, this once flourishing community has been living in a state of limbo with scant attention paid to their plight, even after they lost almost everything in the orgy of violence and persecution unleashed upon them by the Islamic terrorists and secessionists.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its pivotal decision in June 1999 said that ‘acts akin to genocide’ were committed against the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir and a ‘genocide type design’ may exist against them in the minds and utterances of terrorists and militants.
Now 30 years and more into their dislocation, the advent of Spring in the lives of hapless KPs continues to be a distant dream. Scattered as they are presently, across the length and breadth of the country and globe, they find themselves bereft of their sense of belonging and the well known identity. They are forgotten and relegated to the footnotes of history, with acute socio-political exclusion and marginalisation.
We trust that your good self shall redeem the promise extended to the KP community. Alongside, arrangements have to be made for a genuine political, economic and psychological empowerment of the community by reserving proportionate number of seats in the new legislative body that will come up on the completion of ongoing delimitation process.
Reservation of seats in the legislature for the minorities of Kashmir (including KPs, Kashmiri Sikhs & non-Kashmiri speaking Hindus of Kashmir) is a national imperative because they are so miniscule a minority as to make it impossible for them to reach the principal law-making body just on their own, mainly because (despite their numbers) they are scattered all over after forcible exodus from the valley engineered by enemy agents and terrorists.
KPs have been and will continue to be torch bearers of Indian nationalism in hostile terrain of Kashmir valley. Pradhan Mantri Ji, it is the national duty of everyone to see their dignified return to and retention in the Valley, with assured political, social and economic rights flowing to them, uninterrupted and creation of conditions in valley to ensure that at any time in future, the community does not face another exodus and is able to live peacefully in valley along with other sections of society with dignity.
The delimitation process of Assembly Constituencies, as envisaged by The J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 (Act) is underway. Delimitation Commission constituted under Section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 is on the job. Need for delimitation of the constituencies arose because the number of seats in J & K legislative Assembly has been increased to 114.
The Delimitation process has generated hope among the displaced KPs that a way will be found to ensure their political representation & empowerment. Accordingly, they approached the Commission with their well presented case for having a statuary share carved out for them in the upcoming State Assembly.
The Sikkim Legislative Assembly has one seat reserved for Buddhist Monks who live in Monasteries across Sikkim. This constituency is not bound by geographical boundaries but spreads across whole state like a floating constituency. The Supreme Court has in RC Poudial and another versus UOI & others (1994 SCC Sup 1 324) upheld its constitutionality on the argument that though these Monasteries no doubt are religious in nature yet they form a separate section of society.
The Court appreciated Sikkim’s Sangha Assembly seat and characterized it as a perfect example of state’s unique political process to protect minority rights.
Puducherry Assembly has 30 elected members and in addition the Government of India is empowered to nominate 3 members (with voting powers ) to the Assembly from among the sections of society who don’t have chances to reach thereto by way of election. This model could be replicated in case of J&K UT also, to facilitate the KP representation.
In the erstwhile J&K Assembly there was provision for nomination of two women members to the House, in order to correct the gender balance. On a similar principle, in the upcoming Assembly, has to be maintained by ensuring representation of all sections –particularly the Ethnic minority of Kashmir viz. Kashmiri Pandits.
Art 331 of the Constitution of India, reserved seats in the Lok Sabha and made provision for State Assemblies to reserve seats for the Anglo-India Community. Rationale behind the reservation was that Anglo Indian community constituted a religious, social as well as a linguistic minority, and being numerically small community interspersed all over India, it wasn’t possible for them to get represented in a general election.
KPs are similarly situated, so the logic behind Anglo Indian reservation fully applies to their case. True, this reservation lapsed in 2020 but the logic behind it remains intact. It got lapsed because only 296 Anglo-Indians remained in the country.
The Delimitation Commission is hemmed in by the constraints of law. It may not be able to address this demand of the KPs in the desired manner. It requires amendments to the Constitution and any other relevant law. If clause A could be added to Section 36 of now repealed JK Representation of Peoples Act to have polling booths away from the jurisdiction of an Assembly Constituency to facilitate a displaced person to cast vote, similarly constituencies could be carved out for them to ensure their representation in the Assembly.
The head count of people and geography are inalienably integral to the whole electoral regime of which the Delimitation of Assembly constituencies is an important component. Precisely, to mark the point, the Delimitation Act 2002 lays emphasis on Census (Section 8) and compactness of Geography (Section 9) for delineation of Assembly or Parliamentary Constituencies.
For the reasons mentioned, herein, above both Census and the Geography elude them. There has been no head count of them, nor do they have the Geographic compactness to live in present, with the result KPs stand thrown out of the electoral regime. This amounts to their disenfranchisement and denial of citizenry rights which are available to their compatriots in the country.
In addition, this constitutes a grave violation of Human Rights. There can be no worse example of a whole ethnic community being for all practical purposes excluded from the electoral process. The situation goes against the letter and spirit of the Delimitation process.
Hon’ble Sir, the displaced KPs and other minorities of Kashmir look up to you as a Messiah who would deliver them their due and ensure that the due rights -socio-political and economic– as envisaged by the Constitution of India, flow to them, smoothly.
(Featured image source: kashmirtimes.com)
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