The fact is that it was not the secessionist violence but the political game against Jammu which influenced the Registrar General of India in de-linking Jammu and Kashmir from the Census operation.
In a cabinet system of government, the propensities, complexion and policies of the government depend upon the composition of the elected legislature. In fact, the composition of the elected house guides and shapes the politico-administrative and socio-economic policies of the government. Some times it also culminates in serious inter-regional tensions and irritations and domination of one region over another or domination of one section of society over the rest of the population. This actually happened in many states of the Indian Union, including erstwhile Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
The Census of 1971 had put the Valley’s population at 24,35,701 and that of Jammu at 20,75,640
Jammu and Kashmir also falls under the category of states where a certain region – and in this case, Kashmir – dominates the state’s politics and economy and deprives Jammu and Ladakh of their rightful, legitimate dues and forces them to adopt a policy of political mendicancy.
It is pertinent to mention here that the tale of Kashmir’s total domination over the state’s politics and economy began in 1951. That year, Valley-centric Wazir-e-Azam, Sheikh Abdullah, de-linked Jammu and Kashmir from the census operations conducted that year throughout the country, ignored the 1941 census report as well as the sea change undergone in the state’s demographic landscape owing to the migration of over one lakh Hindus and Sikhs from the Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) as also the migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir to Jammu and delimited the constituencies for the legislative assembly in an irrational manner. All this was done to give 43 seats to Kashmir – which had a land area of 15,953 sq. km. (15.73%) and less than half of the state’s population –, 30 to Jammu with an area of 26,293 sq. km. (25.93%) and the population more than Kashmir and a paltry 2 to the trans-Himalayan Ladakh with a land area of 59,146 sq. km. (58.3%) in a House of 100. The remaining 25 seats remained reserved for the people of PoJK as per Section 47 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. Jammu did protest against this undemocratic machination, but with no result.
In 1961, however, Jammu got an opportunity to convince the authorities of its claim to due representation in the assembly, based on population, area and nature of the terrain (geographical conditions and accessibility). Section 4(2) of the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the Peoples Act, 1957, envisages the above three criteria for the delimitation of constituencies and provides that “a correlation” has to be maintained “between the ratio of population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted” (J&K Representation of Peoples Act 1957). The opportunity was provided by the census of 1961 conducted in Jammu and Kashmir along with the rest of India after a gap of 20 years.
As per the 1961 census, Jammu’s population was 16 lakh and that of Kashmir 18 lakh. But the Valley leadership contrived to retain 12 seats more than those of Jammu which obviously meant that just 2 lakh Kashmiris were given the right to elect 12 legislators. This excessive share of representation given to Kashmir, as also the unjust and humiliating distinctions made between them and non-Kashmiris was enough to exasperate Jammu which launched a struggle demanding that the position of the people of Jammu in the structure of the government must commensurate with their numerical strength. But nothing came out. The Delimitation Commission, on its part, did try to placate Jammu when in 1966 it offered one seat in the form of a crumb (Report of Delimitation Commission, 1966).
The Census of 1971 had put the Valley’s population at 24,35,701 and that of Jammu at 20,75,640. But the third Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission, like the earlier Delimitation Commissions, violated the Representation of Peoples Act and allowed the people of Kashmir to elect 42 representatives to the legislative assembly at the rate of one per 57,992 persons, while the people of Jammu were empowered to return 31 legislators at the rate of one per 66,956 persons.
The Delimitation Commission could make no alteration in its report owing to the “stiff opposition” of the non-official members
This was enough to provoke a sort of furore as the people of Jammu construed the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission as an affront to their self-respect, as also as an onslaught on democracy. The consequence of the protests in Jammu was that Sheikh Abdullah created an additional seat for its people by increasing the number of assembly seats from 75 to 76. However, this gesture of Sheikh Abdullah could not conciliate the people of Jammu. As a matter of fact, they made it clear that they would continue their struggle till they obtained representation in the assembly in proportion to their population and a few more seats on the basis of area, nature of terrain and state of a communication network.
That even the 1981 census, which had put Jammu’s population at 27,18,113 and that of Kashmir at 31, 34, 904, didn’t bring any relief to the former. It can be seen from the fact that it returned 32 legislators during the 1983 and 1987 assembly elections at the rate of one per 84,941 persons. On the contrary, Kashmir elected 42 legislators during these elections at the rate of one per 74,640 persons.
Sheikh Abdullah did appoint a commission in 1981 with Justice Janaki Nath Wazir as its Chairman to redraw the boundaries of the assembly segments. But he could not delimit the constituencies as he passed away in 1983. Thereafter, the task of delimiting the constituencies devolved upon Justice Mian Jalal-ud-Din, who functioned as the Chairman of the Delimitation Commission till September 1991. In between, three highly significant developments took place which gave an additional stimulus to the ongoing controversy over the number of seats the people of Kashmir and Jammu deserved in the legislative assembly.
First, in their communication to the Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, sent in 1986, the Delimitation Commission members, including Justice Jalal-ud-Din, Peri Shastri, Chief Election Commissioner of India, and Justice KK Gupta, emphasized the “urgent need of more representation to the people of the far-flung areas of Jammu and Ladakh” (Interview with Justice KK Gupta).
The other was the amendment to the State Constitution in 1987, which enhanced the number of constituencies from 76 to 87.
And, thirdly, Jammu and Kashmir were again excluded from the 1991 census operations which covered the whole country, including the militant-infested Punjab and Assam at the behest of certain “vested interests” in the Valley, who argued that “in the present atmosphere created by the militants, census operations were impossible”.
This argument appeared untenable and fallacious. Had the secessionist violence been the chief determinant, the Registrar General of India would not have ordered census in Punjab “convulsed by the most lethal terrorism in the world”. The toll in Punjab due to militant-related incidence was 3,874 in 1990 – roughly about 10 deaths per day” (The Times of India, April 4, 1991). As against the bloodied Punjab scenario, Jammu and Kashmir presented a somewhat different picture, the wholesale migration of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley to Jammu, Delhi and other places of the country notwithstanding. Violence liquidated far fewer people in Kashmir than in Punjab. The fact is that it was not the secessionist violence but the political game against Jammu which influenced the Registrar General of India in de-linking Jammu and Kashmir from the Census operation.
Notwithstanding the exclusion of Jammu and Kashmir from the census operations in 1991, the people of Jammu took the first two developments to mean that justice Jalal-ud-Din would compensate the losses they had suffered at the hands of the successive Delimitation Commissions and State Governments. But their high hopes did not materialize. For, the Delimitation Commission once again ignored the criteria laid down by the Representation of the Peoples Act and recommended 46 seats for Kashmir – which had a highly developed communication system and a population equal to Jammu –, 37 for Jammu – which had a large number of far-flung areas with extremely difficult terrain and poor and inadequate road facilities — and four for cold-desert Ladakh. The State Government accepted these recommendations and issued a notification to this effect on April 4, 1991. All this happened during President Rule. (Between January 19, 1990, and October 9, 1996, Jammu and Kashmir remained under the Governor’s Rule and President’s Rule.)
Enraged, the people of Jammu launched a struggle to seek withdrawal of the April 4, 1991 notification and compel the authorities to redraw the assembly constituencies de-novo strictly in accordance with the requirements of the Representation of the Peoples Act. This movement was so strong that the State Government had to yield and request the Delimitation Commission to review its report. The Delimitation Commission, in the words of none other than Justice KK Gupta did acknowledge that “Jammu deserved seven of the eleven newly-created seats on the basis of population alone”. But the Delimitation Commission could make no alteration in its report owing to the “stiff opposition” of the non-official members like Jamaat-e-Islami legislator Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the National Conference legislators like Ata Ullah Suhrawardy, and an independent legislator” (Interview with Justice KK Gupta).
All this suggests that Kashmir has an excessive and unfairly preponderant share of representation both in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly since 1951 and the Lok Sabha since 1967
The controversy between the official and non-official members, it is believed, led to the resignation of Justice Jalal-ud-Din in September 1991 and the appointment of Justice KK Gupta as Chairman of the Delimitation Commission. Justice Gupta also, like Justice Jalal-ud-Din, failed to dispense justice to the people of Jammu owing to the “adamancy” of the non-official members from the Valley and in his helplessness submitted the Justice Jalal-ud-Din report on September 5, 1992, in original shape (Daily Excelsior, Oct 20, 1992; The Kashmir Times, Oct 22, 1992).
It was under these circumstances that the people of Jammu denounced the Delimitation Commission’s report as “highly irrational and politically motivated” and organized a massive 48-hour bandh on October 28 and 29, 1992 (Daily Excelsior, Oct 28 and 30, 1992). The Chief Election Commissioner of India, TN Seshan, was more severe in his criticism of the report. In fact, he dismissed it as a “deceitful, fraudulent” document, a fraud on the constitution and declared the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations null and void. So much so, he told the State Governor, General KV Krishna Rao, that “it is a waste of time” to argue with him and that “all correspondence from the State (J&K) relating to election issue will be ignored”. Besides, he wrote to Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao that unless the delimitation is started de-novo and completed, no election whatsoever will be possible to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly” (The Hindustan Times, Dec 7, 1992; Daily Excelsior, Jan 9 & 10, 1993; The Kashmir Times, Oct 4, 1994).
The criticism of the people of Jammu against the Delimitation Commission’s report and Seshan’s view compelled the State Government to ask Justice KK Gupta to start the delimitation afresh (Indian Express, March 3, 1995). He started his work in August 1994 and submitted his report on April 27, 1995, but without affecting any modification whatsoever for reasons best known to him. The State Government accepted his report in its entirety the same day (The Jammu and Kashmir Government Gazette (Extraordinary), April 27, 1995). Surprisingly, Seshan also accepted the report, saying that “Justice KK Gupta report is well-balanced and flawless” (The Times of India, May 9, 1995). This change in attitude on his part dumb-founded the people of Jammu and the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held in September 1996 as per the recommendations of Justice KK Gupta.
It may sound ludicrous, but it is hard fact that even Justice KK Gupta had admitted that “gross injustice has been done to Jammu” and that he strongly urged the State Government on April 27, 1995, to approach the President of India and get the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution amended to “increase the share of Jammu from 37 to at least 40 seats” (Daily Excelsior, April 28 & 29, 1995).
The story of Jammu’s representation in the Lok Sabha is no different. The 1961-1971 decade saw Jammu being denied its due in the matter of representation in the Lok Sabha too. The Valley got three seats at the rate of one per 6 lakh population, while Jammu got only two seats at the rate of one per 8 lakh population. The position of Jammu has remained unchanged since 1967, when for the first time direct elections to the Lok Sabha were held in Jammu and Kashmir. Hitherto, the Jammu and Kashmir Government used to nominate all the members to the Lok Sabha.
It would not be out of place to mention here that the people of Jammu province and Kashmir region voted on April 11, 18 and 23 to elect 5 members to the Lok Sabha. The constituencies included Jammu-Poonch and Kathua-Udhampur in Jammu province and Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag in Kashmir region. What is the total number of voters in Jammu province and Kashmir region? Jammu has 37,33,078 registered voters and Kashmir 40,09,570 voters, which also include over 1,20 lakh Kashmiri Hindu voters, who have been living in Jammu, Udhampur, Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune etc since their migration in 1991. They hardly vote. In other words, the number of Kashmiri Muslim voters is 38, 89,570 and the actual difference in the number of voters between Jammu province and Kashmir region is 1,56,492. The number of voters in Ladakh, which elects one member to the Lok Sabha and will vote on May 6, is 1,74,967.
The number of voters in Jammu-Poonch and Kathua-Udhampur Lok Constituencies is 20,47,299 and 16,85,779, respectively. In Kashmir, Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency has 13,17,738 voters, Srinagar constituency 12,94,560 voters and Anantnag constituency 13,97,272 voters. To be more precise, Jammu province would return to Lok Sabha 2 members at the rate of one per 18,66, 539 voters and 13,146 sq km land area on an average. As for Kashmir, it would elect 3 members to the Lok Sabha at the rate of one per 12,96,523 voters and 5,318 sq km land area on an average. The difference in the number of voters per seat between Jammu province and Kashmir is 5,70,016 – a huge difference by any standard.
Similarly, Jammu province will elect 37 members to the legislative assembly at the rate of one per 1,00,894 voters and 711 sq km land area on an average. In contrast, Kashmir will elect 46 members to the legislative assembly at the rate of one per 84, 338 voters and 347 sq km land area on an average. The difference in the number of voters per seat between Jammu province and Kashmir is 16,556 votes – indeed a huge difference.
All this shows that Kashmir — whose land area is almost two-time less than that of Jammu province and which has 1,56,492 more voters as compared with Jammu province but 18,470 voters less as compared to the total number of voters in Jammu and Ladakh (39,08,045) — elects three members to the Lok Sabha, one more than Jammu, and 46 members to the legislative assembly, 9 more than Jammu.
All this suggests that Kashmir has an excessive and unfairly preponderant share of representation both in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly since 1951 and the Lok Sabha since 1967. It would be only appropriate if the parliamentary and assembly constituencies in Jammu province are redrawn on the basis of the criteria laid down in the Representation of the Peoples Act. Jammu and Kashmir are under President’s Rule and the Union Government is competent to administer justice to Jammu by conceding their 68-year-old genuine demand seeking proper representation in both Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.