The Delimitation Commission arrived here Thursday on the second leg of its four-day Jammu & Kashmir visit and interacted with dozens of political leaders and civil society groups to gather firsthand inputs on the exercise to redraw electoral constituencies in the union territory, officials said.
The Commission, led by Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai, had arrived at Srinagar on July 6 and stayed there for another day before reaching Jammu.
In Srinagar, leaders of the National Conference (NC), Peoples Conference, CPI, CPI(M), Panthers Party, Congress, BJP, Apni Party and Bahujan Samaj Party met the commission at Hotel Lalit.
In Jammu, delegations from the BJP, Congress, National Conference and other parties met the Commission and demanded a free and fair delimitation process.
The BJP delegation led by its JK president Ravinder Raina raised the demand of unfreezing of the 24 assembly seats falling in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to grant reservation to people displaced from PoK, Kashmir Pandits, SCs and STs.
Twenty-four seats of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly are vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Congress submitted a memorandum to the Delimitation Commission and said undertaking a delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir will be meaningless until full statehood is restored to it. Statehood is imperative for the restoration of the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir, it said.
“Until full statehood for Jammu and Kashmir as part of the Union of India is restored, there would be no meaning for the Delimitation Commission to undertake any exercise,” the delegation led by former minister Muka Ram and Raman Bhalla said in a memorandum.
National Conference delegation led by its provincial president Devender Rana met the commission expressing hope that it will work in a transparent, judicious and fair manner.
“This Delimitation Commission in the circumstances that it has been constituted is unique and its findings can have far-reaching consequences in shaping the future of Jammu and Kashmir. History will judge its decision and our role critically and if we fail we shall fail our people and the nation as a whole”, the NC delegation said.
“We are confident that the delimitation commission shall work in the most transparent, judicious and fair manner providing justice to all in delimiting the constituencies as per the constitutional framework based on the basic tenants of Delimitation — population, geography, topography, area, physical features, contiguity, convenience of administrative units and facilities of easy communication and approachability of public convenience”, Rana said in the memorandum.
He said each region and sub-region in Jammu and Kashmir has its own diverse characteristics and peculiar needs which need to be addressed by the Commission in a manner that everyone feels involved and democratically empowered. West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee president Labha Ram Gandhi, who led its delegation, demanded reservation of 2 to 3 seats in the assembly for the people of the community living along the border from Jammu to Kathua.
An Apni Party delegation, led by Vice President and former minister Choudhary Zulfikar Ali, also met the Commission. The delegation urged the Commission to expedite the process of delimiting the assembly constituencies by involving all stakeholders.
“J&K is being run by bureaucrats and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy may be performing well but in any democracy, bureaucracy cannot be the substitute of democracy,” the delegation told the Commission.