Protests Cause Changes to J&K’s Boundary Plans, Lead to More Trouble
The complications inherent in the redistricting of Jammu and Kashmir by the Boundary Commission persist, with a second draft following talks also facing objections.
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According to its second draft report, shared with its five members on February 24, the panel suggested that Rajouri’s Assembly seat be reserved for STs in place of Poonch Haveli, which had been proposed earlier; restoration of Suchetgarh, instead of merging with RS Pura and Bishnah; Status reserved for the SC for Suchetgarh; the restoration of the Habba Kadal constituency of Srinagar with its prominent Kashmiri Pandit migrant constituents; and renaming the newly proposed Mughal Maidaan to Inderwal. Apart from this, the commission also redrew the boundaries of some seats in Jammu and Kashmir divisions.
Non-BJP parties denounced the changes as favoring the BJP. PDP spokesperson Firdous Tak said the changes “give credence to our apprehensions that the Commission is working at the behest of the BJP”. Apni party spokesman Vikram Malhotra said “BJP has done everything for its political convenience”, while Congress chief spokesman Ravinder Sharma said “the Boundary Commission has done of dissection instead of delimitation”.
The suggestion not to reserve Poonch Haveli for STs follows widespread protests in the constituency, which is largely inhabited by people of Kashmiri origin, over such a change. The population of the constituency comprised 36.60% Tribals. To transfer ST status to Rajouri – although only 33.84% of its population is tribal – the panel has now suggested adding Fatehpur, Doongi and Bagla from the proposed Thanamandi constituency. This would bring the number of Rajouri tribes to 37.18% of the population. Thanamandi would also be ST reserved according to the Boundary Commission.
Shafiq Mir, president of the Buffliaz Block Development Council, wondered about the regrouping, in turn, of the Manjakote and Thanamandi tehsils, as well as the Sohna patwar circle belonging to Rajouri, at the new headquarters of Thanamandi.
While on the map it appears a geographically compact constituency, in reality Thanamandi falls on the Mughal route and Manjakote on the Line of Control with Pakistan. The two tehsils are only connected by a single-lane Ghambir Mughlan road in good weather. The only all-weather dual carriageway linking the two would, under the proposed changes, fall within Rajouri constituency.
Similarly, Khawas tehsil was added to another ST-only constituency, Darhal, despite the detour that connects the two.
Questions are also being raised over the proposal to move nearly 20 villages that are currently part of the Kalakote constituency to Rajouri, while moving the Sunderbani tehsil from Nowshera headquarters to Kalakote. The changes would increase the number of Hindus in Rajouri and Kalakote, Mir said.
Former MP Gagan Bhagat said the earlier proposal to merge Suchetgarh with SC-only RS Pura was also ill-conceived, as Suchetgarh had an SC population of only 15-20%. There were protests against the proposal, accusations were made that the BJP government had done this to punish Suchetgarh as former party minister Sham Choudhary lost the DDC election here to of an independent, Taranjit Singh Tony.
Although Suchetgah is now back as a seat, it remains booked, with additions from RS Pura tehsil bringing its SC population to 42.84%.
This means that the RS Pura constituency will cease to exist as the Commission has proposed to add the remaining areas of RS Pura teshil to Jammu South and create a new constituency, RS Pura-Jammu South.
Pitting SC against non-SC and tribal against non-tribal, the demarcation breeds hatred and divides people along a particular party line, Bhagat said.
Former Inderwal Congress MP and former Minister GM Saroori questioned the logic behind creating a new constituency each in Kishtwar and Doda districts – Padder respectively, with a population of 51,279 according to the 2011 census, and Doda West, with a population of 1.07 lakh.
At least the areas under the municipal committee of Doda should have passed to one side, Saroori said. He also questioned how Padder became a seat with just 51,279, half the size of some others, arguing it was made to suit “one party in particular”.
Explaining this, Asif Iqbal Naik, a local journalist, said that the Boundaries Commission has now separated the predominantly Hindu inhabited areas in various tehsils of Kishtwar district and added them to Kishtwar and Padder constituencies, without checking the distance. which separates them.
While most of the Hindu-inhabited Drabshalla tehsil were added to Kishtwar, its predominantly Muslim-inhabited Balgran patwar circle departed with Inderwal. Similarly, another Hindu community habitat, Mulchiter Patwar Circle, was removed from the Muslim Mughal Maidan tehsil community of Inderwal and added to Kishtwar, he pointed out.
All this will increase the number of Hindus in Kishtwar constituency.
Likewise, Padder’s constituency will be predominantly Hindu.
Denying that the changes would benefit the BJP, party leader Davinder Singh Rana said the demarcation process was completely transparent and his decisions were based on the basic principles of population, geography, topography, size, physical characteristics, adjacency, convenience of administrative units and easy communication facilities and accessibility of public amenities. Those opposed to the exercise wanted population to be the only criteria, Rana said.