01-Feb-2023  Srinagar booked.net

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‘Dixon Plan Redux’: Why New Proposal Has Caused Political Anguish in Kashmir

The Dixon plan was recently raked up by NC deserter from Jammu, Devendra Singh Rana.

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There’s a vanquished feeling in Sajjad Lone’s Peoples Conference despite his northern stronghold surging in seat strength in the new scheme. With the genie finally out of the bottle, the chieftain previously projected as chief minister has upped the ante against the new Kashmir draft.

Terming Delimitation Commission exercise as a disruption mandated to disenfranchise and disempower the public, PC spokesman Adnan Ashraf says the proposal is full of contradictions.

“They’ve abolished some constituencies and invented new seats like cut and paste according to their wishes and whims having utter disregard for the facts that exist on the ground and against the political drawing of the constituencies,” Adnan told The Himalayan Post.

This constituency creation and elimination is a mindless exercise, he says. “They’ve dissolved Sangrama and split its voter-base to newly created Kunzer, which depends on Gulmarg tourism, rather than on Sangrama’s rural base.”

The draft has openly changed the old dynamics, he says, by overwriting the decades-long political investment and ground connections.

The conflicting change was brought by the much-hyped Delimitation Commission that proposed major changes in the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir. It has proposed six new assembly seats to Jammu against one seat—Trehgam—to Kashmir. Jammu’s seat share has surged to 43 from the existing 37, while Kashmir has now 47 seats as per the new plan.

The commission has also proposed to redraw, merge and vanish 19 assembly seats, and amalgamate Poonch and Rajouri of Pirpanjal range with the Anantnag Parliamentary seat.

“How on earth Rajouri-Poonch would become a part of Anantnag? The regions are culturally and linguistically different with disparaging aspirations,” Imran Dar of National Conference told The Himalayan Post.

“It’s an agenda-driven proposal. And the commission needs to review it because it’s against the established norms and basic parameters of redistribution.”

Many political beings have already likened the draft with the Dixon plan that allocated Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan-administrated Kashmir (PAK) to Pakistan, divided Jammu between the two, and endorsed a plebiscite in Kashmir.

The plan was a brainchild of Sir Owen Dixon, the U.N. representative who came to the subcontinent pursuant to the Security Council’s 1950 resolution on the Kashmir dispute.

Months before the new delimitation proposal, the Dixon plan was recently raked up by NC deserter from Jammu, Devendra Rana.

“This draft is a Dixon plan redux,” says Shahnawaz Bhat, a NC supporter from Srinagar. “It clearly aims to distort politics in Kashmir by merging and redrawing the demarcation boundaries based on the vote bank.”

Such exercise was last conducted in year 1995 before NC government in 2002 froze it until 2026. Following the abrogation of Article 370, New Delhi has been reiterating that elections will be held in JK after the delimitation commission exercise is concluded.

But the commission’s proposal has already caused a stir, as it’s feared to create a long-lasting impact on political discourse, election strategy, voting patterns and the entire political landscape of Kashmir.

“It may inculcate a sense of political disempowerment in the general public at large,” Dr. Javaid Ahmad, a political expert, told The Himalayan Post.

“The very relationship between the political class and citizens will change. The political equations and representational character of politics will not remain unaffected.”

Since Kashmir had a large number of seats as per population, the NC and PDP would dominate elections in Kashmir and easy sweep few seats in Jammu.

“But with the fall of NC in Jammu,” Prof. Noor Baba, a noted political scientist, told The Himalayan Post, “we’ve seen BJP emerging there and areas where BJP have dominance have been given additional seats. It may ensure a process for future where Jammu region would form a government with less support of independent candidates in Kashmir.”

The proposal is undoubtedly meant to change the ground rules of politics and society in every possible way, argues Zafar Choudhary, a noted political analyst from Jammu.

“The tussle of Jammu against Kashmir on the distribution of Assembly constituencies has been historic but it has not remained limited about the numbers anymore,” Choudhary told The Himalayan Post.

As the previous polls largely saw Jammu and Kashmir regions voting on the religious lines, the focus of the commission has shifted to the Pir Panjal region.

“They’ve taken 11 constituencies of south Kashmir and 7 from Pirpanchal to create a constituency,” the analyst says. “This is the first-ever Trans Pirpanchal political entity since the formation of Jammu and Kashmir in 1846.”

This can also alter the power of balance because in south Kashmir, traditionally, the voter turnout is very poor but at the same time, the voting pattern in Poonch-Rajouri is above 80 per cent, Choudhary says.

“If that continues, it’s most likely that the member of the parliament from this constituency shall always to be from Rajouri- Poonch area. In the end, J&K would have 3 MPs from Jammu and 2 from Kashmir.”

Plus, the proposal has it that the people living in border areas make them prone to shelling and need more attention, Choudhary says. “On that basis, they exercised the process. Otherwise, Samba, Kathua and other areas don’t deserve an additional seat.”

Since the proposal has effectively changed the political landscape, the concept of voter per constituency has been altered.

“Earlier, there were 144000 votes in Kashmir per constituency and 149000 in Jammu, but now Jammu has 125000 and Kashmir 140000,” the analyst asserts. “So the average difference of vote per constituency is 20000.”

Clearly, says Ravinder Sharma of Congress, the parameters, ground realities, norms, aspirations of people have not been considered while creating new constituencies and unnatural boundaries.

“There was no demand or need to create artificial constituencies,” Sharma told The Himalayan Post.

“It does not appear to be fair. If we observe the entire nomenclature of this exercise, branding and rebranding is a tool of the BJP government. The commission has not looked into the deeper levels causing chaos and confusion.”

Conspicuously, the Hindu majority seats like Mata Vaishno Devi, Kalakote, Padder in Kishtwar have been carved out of mixed constituencies by demographic engineering to favour a particular party or community, whereas areas like Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Jammu city have not been altered because of the homogenous population.

In the backdrop of these changes, PC’s Adnan Ashraf rues that the aspirations of people have been compromised by the commission.

“The proposal is an attempt to break people who would vote as a single class,” Adnan says.

“Age-old relationships between the electorate and representatives are lost. We’re dealing with a government that is hell-bent on doing what suits them. Once the proposal will be implemented, no political party can do anything. It’s going to be the new beginning of Kashmir politics.”