Delimitation Proposals: Why Kashmir Can’t Protest?

Delimitation commission members speak to the media in Jammu | File photo

The factor that makes a protest for reversal of the Commission’s proposals very unlikely is the long-standing separatist versus pro-India binary in the Valley

AS was expected all along, the Delimitation Commission has given six out of seven new seats to the Jammu division and only one to Kashmir Valley.  It was intended to create an electoral parity between the two divisions, ignoring that the Kashmir Valley has sixteen lakh more residents than Jammu. The commission will now redraw the boundaries of the newly formed constituencies by March next year. The Assembly seats in J&K now amount to 90, up from 83. Jammu’s number increased from 37 to 43, and the Valley’s from 46 to 47.

The BJP has thus sought to redraw the political map of J&K by trying to empower Hindu majority Jammu relative to Muslim majority Kashmir. A narrowed difference of just four seats would dilute the hitherto political centrality of the Valley and transfer power both politically and psychologically to Jammu division.  In the new scheme of things, the minorities in J&K  would have disproportionately more political heft than the majority.

But this analysis is too obvious to require any elaboration. So, there have already been some political repercussions. The major political parties in J&K like National Conference, the PDP, the People’s Conference or for that matter even the Apni Party have termed the delimitation proposal as “unacceptable”. People in the Valley, as has been the case over the last two years, are either passively monitoring the state of affairs or have resigned to their fate. It is difficult to predict what shape their response will take in the near to medium future. But given the prevailing zero tolerance for any expression of dissent in Kashmir, no matter how peaceful, it is unlikely that the people would hit the streets – that is, unless some incidental extraordinary provocation triggers a spontaneous outpouring.

That said, it would be really interesting to see how the response of the establishment parties to the situation would evolve. Rejecting the new delimitation proposal is little more than a rehearsed, ritual response. And from the looks of it, they seem inclined to sit on their hands from hereon. And which seems an understandable response considering the centre has disproportionately raised the cost for any bid on their part to mobilize people against the delimitation proposals. In no time, they could be packed off to jail and the cases instituted against them for their real or imagined crimes or the alleged  cases of corruption.

So, some leaders have once again sought refuge in litigating the case in the Supreme Court despite the fact that the Delimitation Commission’s orders can’t be challenged in the court.  Former union minister Saif-u-Din Soz has in a statement said that “the recommendation of the Delimitation Commission could be enough to convince the judiciary to accept” them. “The Court’s advice to the people of Kashmir, he added,  could be to rest content with the recommendations of the Commission. But  Soz has said this in his individual capacity as he is no longer actively involved in politics.

But the leaders in active politics have steered clear of threatening or calling for a political course of action for modification of the Commission’s recommendations in favor of Kashmir.  Other than putting the ball in an imaginary court, the leaders seem to have nothing on their sleeve other than the “rejection” of the proposal as if that would change anything.

But then is there anything they could do realistically to force New Delhi to terms? The answer to this is more complex than it appears. One, of course, is the readiness on the part of the leaders to pay the inevitable cost for mobilizing a public resistance to the recommendations of the Commission. This seems apparently absent. There are reasons for this:  More a political party tries to play to the sentiment in Kashmir, the more it is read as an unwelcome drift towards separatism in New Delhi. And as a corollary, the more a party plays to New Delhi’s expectations, the more is it inferred as a political compromise in Kashmir. So, it should be no surprise if some Kashmiri mainstream politicians talk about autonomy and self rule in Kashmir, governance in Jammu division and rail against Pakistan in New Delhi. But now the regime in New Delhi would have none of it.It wants the politics to turn literally pro-India, devoid of its nuance, complexity and complications.  And some Kashmiri leaders have grudgingly kowtowed to the expectation and the others have been more or less restrained in what they say, while struggling to stay true to their old politics.

Another thing that makes a protest for reversal of the Commission’s proposals very unlikely is the long-standing separatism versus pro-India binary in the Valley.  The ongoing struggle in Kashmir that has so far claimed over 70,000 lives is fundamentally separatist in nature. That is why over the past thirty years all public stirs in Kashmir have invariably been anti-New Delhi in nature. Even the protests over as civic an issue as power outages have often culminated into anti-New Delhi sloganeering. So, a stir on the pattern of anti-CAA protests that only seeks reversal of the revocation of Article 370 and that of the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations is just not possible in the Valley. Kashmir is still far from coming to a point where the protesters are willing to wave a tricolor as part of their protest. ISo, if at all, there is a possibility of a stir, it could only be an ‘integrated protest,’ where separatism will meld with demands for restoration of Article 370 and reversal of the Commission’s recommendations, something that no establishment party would be willing to hazard and the separatists are not in a position to spearhead.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Riyaz Wani

Riyaz Wani is the Political Editor at Kashmir Observer

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