WEBINAR HELD ON 19 SEPT 2020 ON THE DELIMITATION IN JKUT AND THE POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT OF DISPLACED KASHMIRI HINDUS: A REPORT
Following prominent persons of the community took part in the Webinar conducted by AIKS on 19 Sept 2020 between 6 P.M. and 9 P.M.
Dr K N Pandita
Sh. Vijay Sazawal
Sh. Vijay Kashkari
Sh. Shiban Khaibri
Sh. Ajay Bharti
Sh. Sanjay Saraf
Sh. Surinder Ambardar
Sh. Reapan Tikoo
Sh. A. K. Raina
Moderator: Col Tej K Tikoo, Ph.D. (Retd)
Vote of Thanks presented by: Sh. Maharaj K Pajan
Technical Support provided by: Sh. Sunil Kaul
The webinar, which was widely watched by the community and others outside the community, generated a keen interest and many issues were touched upon, not necessarily directly related to the agenda, but certainly impinging on our return to Kashmir.
Important Issues which Emerged from the Discussion
Though many issues were discussed during the webinar, it was on the following points of concern to which substantial time was devoted.
Delimitation (DL) and Political Empowerment of Displaced Kashmiri Hindus
From the statistics/figures quoted from published/ government records, it is apparent that since 1941 efforts were made at official/unofficial levels to project Kashmiri Pandit population far below their numbers than what actually existed in the Valley. The aim appeared to be to disempower the community in view of the likelihood of monarchy coming to an end and India becoming a democratic republic.
It also emerged that in 1947, KP community had significant numbers in six constituencies and, in fact, till 1967, it could elect three of its members to the Legislative Assembly (LA). However, later, due to alteration carried out in the boundaries of assembly seats as mentioned above, Kashmiri Pandits could not elect even one of their representatives, thereafter. This gerrymandering of constituencies disempowered the community completely. Many speakers referred to this fact during their presentation.
Dr K N Pandita elucidated on the background of the delimitation process started in India after 1962 and thereafter, being carried out every 10 years. He emphasized that the recommendations of the delimitation commission are binding and cannot be challenged in parliament or courts. After the last delimitation carried out in 2002, the then government amended the provision to freeze further delimitation till 2024. Dr Pandita mentioned that later the Govt had enhanced the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly (LA) of J&K from 80 to 114, with 24 seats kept reserved for POK and still later in 2019, 7 more seats were added without assigning any reason.
Due to such changes effected in the seats allocated, certain ambiguities remained, e.g., will refugees of 1947 from POK, who now stand regularized after abrogation of article 370 and 35A, get their share of seats out of the 24 assigned to POK? There, also, did not appear to be any clarity about KPs who are displaced, getting any consideration as constituencies are created on basis of population, which does not favor them. It is also not clear as to whom are the 7 seats, added later, to be allotted to. It is possible that these my go to Jammu due to the inclusion of nomadic tribes in the electoral rolls. Dr Pandita mentioned that in the state of J&K there never has been an equitable dispensation of political justice and it has, been a tyranny of the majority. He asserted, “Let it be clear to us that no one will dispense political empowerment to us. We need to fight for it.” He said that we must work for a constituency in exile.
It was also mentioned that the Delimitation Commission (DC) included names of Farooq Abdullah and Hasnain from the National Conference. However, they have not confirmed their participation. Later, Sh. Shiban Khaibri Ji confirmed that both have declined to be part of the said Commission. He wondered whether KPs will get a share from the additional seats added to the LA. While demanding reservation of seats for our community in the State Legislature, Khaibri Ji’s comment about the demand raised by some people for creation of constituency for Chenab Valley in Doda, evinced keen interest among the participants. However, the issue was not discussed further as enough information was not available on the subject.
It was also brought out by one of the panelists, particularly Dr K N Pandita and Sh. A K Raina, that Dr Subramaniam Swamy, while speaking to members of KPA, Mumbai, had favored reserving seats in the LA for persecuted Hindus of Kashmir. He even went as far as to suggest that Kashmiri Hindus could even have constituency in exile. Sh. Sanjay Saraf also demanded reservation of seats for KPs in parliament and in the LA.
Nearly everyone voiced their concern on the least thought given to displaced Kashmiri Hindus while the erstwhile State was reorganized.
Sh. Ajay Bharti said that before DC gets down to work, we must seek justice for KP community by presenting our case before it, as population figures have been manipulated in the erstwhile state. Such manipulation adversely affected population figures of Jammu and Ladakh too.
He further gave statistical details of birth/ fertility rate over a period between 1981 to 2001, which resulted in most benefits, in the shape of allocation of lions share of funds, in favour of Kashmir for many years. He said that he was hopeful that the DC will consider our issues favourably.
Dr Vijay Sazawal too commented on the issue and opined that a well-crafted strategic approach be adopted for our return and rehabilitation. He further said that our political empowerment must be institutionalized.
Quoting extensively from Government records available in the open sources, Sh. Vijay Kashkari proved without the slightest of ambiguity that the census exercises conducted earlier in the state were meant to disempower the Kashmiri Pandits. He further said that communities can be empowered in different ways but today our focus should be on our political empowerment. He emphasized that earlier too AIKS had rejected DL based on 2011 census. Giving statistical details of errors in 2011 census, he emphasized that these errors were not a mere coincidence but a deliberate attempt to rob the community of its right to political space in Kashmir. Kashkari Ji further said, “With the deletion of article 370 and 35A, the situation has changed for good. Time has now come when we must get reservation both in parliament and state assembly,” he said.
Sh. Surinder Ambardar mentioned that KPs cannot allow its civilizational roots with Kashmir to be cut. While dwelling on our exodus, he said that it was a part of an international conspiracy which re-ignited the civilizational war to which our community has been subjected to for centuries. He said that this civilizational onslaught must be fought through institutional mechanism. He said that our political empowerment is necessary to re-establish and protect our civilizational connect with Kashmir. He asserted, “Therefore, we seek reservation for 3 seats in assembly and 1 in parliament to protect of our civilizational continuity with Kashmir.
Sh. Reapen Tikoo spoke at length about his extensive interaction with the Election Commission of India on many occasions. He said that his primary focus has been to get the Election Commission to simplify the process for enabling the displaced community members to participate in the elections and exercise their franchise in their original constituencies in Kashmir, before their exodus. He said, “Our ability to vote in large numbers in our original constituencies will automatically make us relevant to the election process and will be a step towards our political empowerment. He supported the demand for the reservation of seats in Parliament and State Assembly.
Sh. AK Raina pointed out the inaccuracies in various census reports, as far as these concerned our community, post-exodus. Quoting an example, he said that in the 2011 census our sex ratio was shown as 10:1, which is clearly a farce. As a progressive community KPs are far ahead of even the national figure of 1000: 940. He said that in the census carried out in 2001 or 2011, no door to door survey was done, thereby rendering the whole process suspect and inaccurate.
He quoted government figures to prove that census exercise done in past was deliberately manipulated to our disadvantage. He said, “We need to present our facts and figures to the DC to ensure that no injustice was done.”
Everyone who spoke during the webinar rejected the carrying out of delimitation based on 2011 census. There was consensus among the participants that delimitation should be carried only after the census of 2021.
Issue of Minorities
It was pointed out that in Kashmir, KPs were not considered a minority, despite their microscopic numbers. While Kashmiri Muslims took advantage of minority status at the all-India level, at the state level too, they cornered all the benefits meant for minorities, despite being in preponderant majority at the state level. As Dr K N Pandita called it, “Eating the cake and carrying it too.”
Dr K N Pandita explained the concept of ‘reverse minority’ and mentioned that though UNHRC considered this category for people like us who are in such a situation, but our own NHRC did not take cognizance of this demand. He further mentioned that KPs were labelled as ‘Migrants’, while we are IDPs as per Geneva Convention of 2002. We could get rights like Afghan refugees if this just demand was accepted.
Kashmir as the Central Point of Our Focus
Dr. Vijay Sazawal during his presentation emphasized that our displaced community’s focus must remain Kashmir, and more particularly, those of us who continue to be there. He said that our vision must focus on the preservation and protection of our temples and shrines, which will eventually serve as the springboard for our return and help to serve as the core of our presence there on which we can build further. This way we can continue to demand and secure our right to our land of generations.
He further said that we all must render full support to those KPs who stayed back or are currently living in the valley. “They represent of our identity and it is they who are truly shouldering the responsibility of preserving our centuries-old connection with Kashmir. Help them to stay put and grow,” he said. He further said that our efforts must be directed at strengthening our identity in Kashmir, particularly through institutional means. In this connection he mentioned about the establishment of Lal Ded Chair at Kashmir University.
Sh. Sanjay Saraf assured of his and his party, Lok Jana Shakhti Party’s (LJP) full support to our community. He asserted that though his party was part of the NDA, yet he will not hesitate to criticize the government for the fact that it has done little for the displaced people living in pathetic conditions in Jagati. Sh. Saraf further argued that 2 to 3 % jobs in the JKUT must be reserved in the central govt offices/undertakings for the displaced community. He further demanded registration for community members in BPL category if they fulfill the required conditions, so that they get benefits under this scheme to which they are entitled.
Sh. Surinder Ambardar dwelt at length on the political situation in Kashmir post-Aug 5,2019 and emphasized that our displaced community must register ourselves for obtaining ‘Domicile Certificate” which will strengthen our claim to be politically empowered. He mentioned that if 8/10 Lakh community members obtain Domicile Certificate, no political dispensation can ignore us.
Important Issues that emerged from the webinar
- Political empowerment of the Kashmiri Pandit community is of utmost importance for its return and survival in Kashmir.
- Persecuted Kashmiri Pandit community displaced from Kashmir must get 3 seats reserved for it in LA and one seat in Parliament.
- KPs reject the delimitation exercise proposed to be carried out in JKUT based on 2011 census.
- The Delimitation to be carrier out in JKUT by the DC must be carried out based on census-2021, which is less than a few months away.
- JKUT must institute a commission to identify minorities in the state to be statutorily recognized to dispense justice in an equitable manner without discrimination.
- Participants expressed concern at the poor living conditions of those displaced community members who are living in Jagati Township. Numerous appeals have been sent to the Govt of JKUT in this regard, but nothing much has been done to improve the situation.
- Every community org must support our community members in Kashmir in every possible manner and treat it as a core to build upon it to sustain our eventual return.
- Whereas efforts are on to streamline the process of enabling our community to exercise their franchise during elections in their original constituency in Kashmir, members are requested to enroll themselves as voters in their respective constituencies. This will also help in empowering them politically.
- Whole community is requested to register themselves for the issue of Domicile Certificate, as this will eventually help us establish our numbers authentically.
- Irrespective of which political party one belongs to, every KP political activist considers the community interests as non-negotiable.
(Tej K Tikoo)