Delimitation: Another conflict or a step towards peace in the Valley?

India Jul 06, 2021

On June 24, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an all-party meeting with 14 key political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir to discuss the current political situation and chalk out the future roadmap for the Union Territory. It is the first meeting between the Centre and the J&K leaders post the revocation of Article 370, which resulted in the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories (UT). Article 370 had granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The J&K political leaders highlighted their demand for the restoration of statehood and urged the central leadership to strive for a trustworthy environment in the region.PM Modi assured the leaders regarding the Centre’s intent for a better future for Kashmir. One major issue discussed was the Delimitation exercise to conduct polls and have a stable elected government in Jammu and Kashmir. Let us try and understand the concept of delimitation.

What is Delimitation?

Delimitation is the process of altering the boundaries of a Lok Sabha seat or an Assembly to represent changes in population over time. The high powered Delimitation Commission is responsible for carrying out this exercise and its orders are legally binding which cannot be questioned before any court.

This exercise is undertaken every few years so that there is equal representation of equal segments of the population of voters. As the population changes over time, it might happen that the number of voters under one constituency increases in comparison to others resulting in an unfair division of seats. Hence, this process ensures that the population, as far as possible, is the same throughout the state.

Under normal circumstances, this process is carried out every few years after the Census to ensure that each seat has approximately an equal number of voters.

Delimitation in J&K

In the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, which carried the special status, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Indian Constitution, but that of the Assembly seats was undertaken separately by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and the J&K Representation of the People Act,1957. A Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was first constituted in 1952. Subsequent Commissions were constituted in 1963, 1973 and finally in 1995, the year before the elections of 1996. After that, a law was passed by the J&K Assembly freezing the delimitation exercise till 2026. Now the demand for delimitation has been raised again as some political parties believe the freeze has created inequity for the region of Jammu.

The current scenario

According to the J&K reorganisation bill passed in August 2019, it was proposed that the delimitation exercise for the region will now be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution and the number of assembly seats in the region would increase from 107 to 114.

The Delimitation Commission, set up by the government in March 2020, was expected to be completed this year but the process was granted a year’s extension owing to delays due to the pandemic and will now start functioning this year in J&K.

Way forward

The conclusion of the delimitation exercise will be the first step towards the resumption of the political process in the Valley and pave the way for elections in Jammu and Kashmir. However, given the ever politically volatile scenario in the region, it remains to be seen if this process will result in some peace, stability and development in the beautiful paradise of India.

This article has been written by Khanak Sharma for the Paradigm

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