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Volume IconWhat is delimitation?

India on Thursday slammed a resolution passed by Pakistan's Parliament on the delimitation exercise in Jammu & Kashmir. Know more about delimitation and why it has come under criticism in the valley

ImageBhaswar Kumar New Delhi
jammu kashmir

jammu kashmir

Earlier in May, as it redrew Jammu and Kashmir’s electoral map, the government’s three-member Delimitation Commission recommended creation of six assembly constituencies in Jammu and one in Kashmir. With this, there will be 47 assembly segments in the Kashmir division and 43 in Jammu. So there are 90 assembly seats in JK, up from 83 earlier.

According to the 2011 Census, the population of Jammu and Kashmir is 12.5 million. Of them 6.89 million live in Kashmir, 5.38 million in Jammu and 2, 74,00 in Ladakh.

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The exercise and the proposal have drawn heavy criticism from various political quarters, especially within the Kashmir Valley.

“The delimitation commission has become an extension of BJP… We reject it, we have no faith in it,”  
Former JK chief minister Mehbooba Mufti

BJP’s former ally Mehboob Mufti was blunt in criticism. She said that the commission has ignored the basic parameter of population and added or removed areas as per their wishes.

But what exactly is delimitation?
Delimitation is the process by which the limits or boundaries of a country's territorial constituencies are rejigged to reflect changes in population. The redrawing of these boundaries is based on the recent census.

In India, the number of Lok Sabha seats allocated to different states, along with the total number of seats in a state's Legislative Assembly, can change as a result of a delimitation exercise. And the body tasked with carrying out the exercise is called delimitation commission or boundary commission.

Such commissions have been constituted four times in India. First was in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952, then in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962, in 1973 under Delimitation Act, 1972 and in 2002 under Delimitation Act, 2002.

The delimitation exercise is done for three main reasons. First, to ensure a fair division of geographical areas. Second, to ensure equal population representation from every seat. And, third, to ensure that the principle of “One Vote One Value” is maintained.

Now, let us delve into the controversy in Kashmir over the delimitation commission’s proposal. The report has five major takeaways.

First, the five parliamentary constituencies have been re-organised so that each now has 18 assembly constituencies. Second, six assembly seats in Jammu and three in Kashmir have been reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

The third is the formation of the Anantnag-Rajouri Parliamentary constituency by merging Kashmir’s Anantnag area with Jammu’s Rajouri and Poonch.

The fourth is the addition of six new Assembly constituencies in Jammu and one in Kashmir.

Last and fifth, it has been proposed that the Union Territory’s Legislative Assembly should include at least 2 people from the Kashmiri migrant population.

So, why the criticism and opposition? As a recent Business Standard editorial explains, the main reason for this is the seat distribution in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha. It appears that the old communal divide between Jammu and Kashmir has been maintained by allocating them 43 and 47 seats, respectively.

This allocation significantly alters the vote shares in the Assembly. Jammu, with 44 per cent of the population, will get to vote for 48 per cent of the seats.

Meanwhile, the Kashmir division, with 56 per cent of the population, will get to vote for 52 per cent of the seats. Under the earlier configuration, Jammu had 44.5 percent of the seats and Kashmir 55.4 per cent.

And when it comes to the realignments of the parliamentary seats, critics see the influence of Kashmiri-speaking Muslim voters being reduced with the restructuring of the Jammu and Anantnag seats. No wonder there have been allegations of gerrymandering.

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First Published: May 20 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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