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Home minister takes stocks of J-K situation

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Delimitation commission in state on cards

New Delhi, Jun 04 (PTI) Home Minister Amit Shah was on Tuesday given a detailed presentation on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP has been pushing for carrying out a delimitation exercise for getting more seats for Jammu region in the State Assembly, officials said Tuesday.

The Home Minister was briefed about the ground situation in the sensitive state, which has been hit by militancy for the last three decades and security arrangements being in place there.

Shah was also told about the security arrangements being made for the annual Amarnath Yatra, slated to begin on July 01, a Home Ministry official said.

He is likely to visit the state soon, they said.

Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and senior officials of the Kashmir division in the Home Ministry were present in the briefing.

Jammu and Kashmir has been prime focus of the ruling BJP which in its manifesto had declared that once it is elected to power, it will work for abrogation of Article 370, which gives special power to Jammu and Kashmir, and annulling Article 35-A, that gives special rights to the people of the state.

The BJP is also a strong advocate for redrawing the long-pending delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. There is a possibility of the new central government constituting a delimitation commission to redraw the scope and size of the Assembly segments and determine the number of seats to be reserved for Schedules Castes.

The demand for delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir was raised by the BJP first in 2008 during the Amarnath land row.

The objective of the BJP is seemed to correct the alleged inequity and “regional disparity” towards the Jammu province, and also provide representation to all reserved categories in the State Assembly.

The Farooq Abdullah government had amended the State Constitution in 2002 under which “until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the state and the division of the state into territorial constituencies under this sub-section.”

According to legal experts, the amendment to the Constitution can be struck down by Governor Satya Pal Malik but requires a concurrence of Parliament within six months after passing such an ordinance.

The BJP in Jammu and Kashmir has been raising the issue of reorganisation of the state so that Jammu gets a larger share of seats in the 87-member State Assembly. As of now, Kashmir region has 46 seats followed by Jammu region with 37 and Ladakh with four.

The state BJP has also been suggesting that 13 seats kept vacant for areas of the state under the control of Pakistan should be given to West Pakistan refugees who have settled in Jammu.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted that she is “distressed to hear about GoIs (Government of India’s) plan to redraw Assembly constituencies in J&K. Forced delimitation is an obvious attempt to inflict another emotional partition of the state on communal lines. Instead of allowing old wounds to heal, GoI is inflicting pain on Kashmiris.”

The then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad toyed with the idea of setting up delimitation commission but could not push forward after its ally, PDP, resisted any such move.

Pertinently, the NDA government in 2002 had initiated a process of delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies and set up Kuldip Singh Commission but had agreed to keep Jammu and Kashmir out of its purview.

National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh welcomed any such move saying the Congress with the National Conference have “discriminated against” the Jammu region.

The Supreme Court had in 2010 upheld the freeze imposed by Jammu and Kashmir government on delimitation of Assembly constituencies in the state till 2026 and dismissed the plea that it violated the “basic structure” of the State Constitution.

Rejecting Bhim Singh’s argument that it deprived Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes the right to represent the Valley, the apex court had in a judgement said courts cannot interfere in matters of delimitation as there was an express constitutional bar on such interference.

Dismissing the plea, the then bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly had said “we are of the opinion that a right to cast vote is a valuable right but to demand any uniform value of one’s voting right through the process of delimitation, disregarding the statutory and constitutional dispensation based on historical reasons is not a justiciable right.”

Before the LoK Sabha elections, the BJP had declared, “We will firmly continue our policy of ‘zero tolerance’ against terrorism and extremism and will continue to follow our policy of giving a free hand to our security forces in combating terrorism”.

Following the Pulwama suicide attack on February 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the security forces were given free hand to carry out operations against the militants involved in it.

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