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Delimitation Impact

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Ever since the days of Sheikh Abdullah, J&K’s fate has been decided from the Kashmir Valley, particularly as the Dogra Royal Family’s role was entirely eviscerated by the process of ‘democratisation’. As has been seen in almost all parts of India, the old Royalty gave way not so much to merit-based leadership but to new dynastic formulations. In Kashmir, the descendants of Abdullah showed the way to others in obtaining a stranglehold over valley-centric politics. The acceptance from Pt Nehru’s time that J&K was ‘Muslim’ in essence allowed a lot of distortions, even as it entirely overturned the previous power structure of Dogra rule.

This situation is in the process of being remedied through the Modi Government’s initiatives. First, Ladakh has been liberated from this equation and will, hopefully, go on to acquire its own unique identity. Now, the ‘imbalance’ of power between the Kashmir and Jammu Divisions is being sought to be rectified through the delimitation process. Six more seats in Jammu and one in Kashmir will not only increase the number of members, but lead to some balance in political clout between the two seats of power. It will also force the parties wanting to form the government to adopt more equitable policies and establish bases in areas other than their traditional strongholds.

It will, of course, cause much heartburn among those who have traditionally taken advantage of the religious ‘divide’. Representing Kashmir’s Muslims has also required pandering to separatist sentiments, providing Pakistan a veto of sorts in the state’s politics. Some of the political players, particularly newer outfits with younger leaders, have been trying to break out of this mould, but the likes of PDP’s Mehbooba continue to play the game. In fact, her inability to change her ways had scuttled the BJP’s earlier coalition experiment.

The truth is that the delimitation exercise has been taken on the basis of the 2011 census and the present population requires better representation in the assembly. (That issue is basically a national one.) All the same, J&K’s leaders should realise that, for the sake of the people and the need to become a full-fledged state again, a pragmatic approach needs to be adopted. That would also require a rethink on the Muslim-Hindu politics that has plagued J&K all these years.