The BJP in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday sought fresh delimitation of Assembly constituencies and de-freezing of at least eight of the 24 seats in the Assembly reserved for areas in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
A resolution was adopted by the party’s working committee, which expressed concern over “gross injustice done to Ladakh and Jammu regions by previous National Conference governments through inequitable delimitation of Assembly constituencies favouring Kashmir region”.
“It has reinforced the party’s demand for fresh delimitation of Assembly constituencies in the state, besides the demand for de-freezing of one-third of 24 seats kept reserved for areas of PoJK (Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir),” the resolution said, adding that “these Assembly seats shall be allotted to Jammu region where people displaced from PoJK have been living since 1947-48”.
The party’s working committee also sought political reservation for Scheduled Tribes in the state, and abolition of the practice of Kashmiri Pandit migrants having to fill up ‘M Form’ for voting in the Valley. Muslim Gujjars and Bakarwals comprise a large group among the communities declared STs in the state, and they predominantly inhabit areas in Pir Panjal and Chenab valley, besides Kashmir. Pandits, too, account for a good number in some places in the Valley.
In the 111-member Assembly, elections are held in only 87 constituencies. As people in the remaining 24 Assembly constituencies have never voted in view of their areas falling across the LoC, their seats have been kept vacant.
According to BJP leaders, one-third of the population that migrated from areas of the state forcibly annexed by Pakistan during 1947 have been living in various parts of Jammu here. Though 24 seats are kept vacant for the people of PoK, these displaced people have been voting for election of representatives in other areas. The party wants them to be allowed to vote to fill the seats. This, party leaders feel, will not only enable these displaced people to have their own representatives but also strengthen India’s claim on PoK areas.
According to Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation of displaced persons from PoK, nearly 3 lakh people migrated to this side of the LoC after 1947 and the number is now 12-13 lakh.