The Jammu and Kashmir all-party meet was held on 24 June 2021. This was the first meeting among the party members since the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A in August 2019.
Leaders who attended the meeting were National Conference’s Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand, People’s Democratic Party’s leader Mehbooba Mufti, BJP members Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh, and Kavinder Gupta.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi defined the center’s commitment to restoring statehood in the region by installing a democratically elected party as leader of the union territory.
The central government advised the parties to support the delimitation constituencies so that the statehood could be installed rapidly. The discussion went on for three and a half hours.
After the meeting, PM Narendra Modi’s official Twitter account mentioned, “Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory.”
The center ensured that the immediate priority was restoring statehood in the region, by parties agreeing on the delimitation constituencies and conducting early elections.
Home Minister Amit Shah, tweeted, “Delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in Parliament.”
He also provided key knowledge of projects undertaken in J&K since the abrogation of Article 370.
The working progress in J&K schemes has been 90% achieved, including road projects, seven new medical colleges, industrial policy worth Rs 28,400 crore with the proposed creation of 4.5 lakh jobs.
The members of the parties also kept their demands. Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of Congress, kept 5 demands in the meeting – restoring statehood in the region, rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits in the territory, conducting elections, and releasing political prisoners on domicile rules.
He stated the discussion in the meeting was 80% based on Article 370 but the matter was sub judice in court.
He further stated, “Our demands included full-fledged statehood soon, elections to restore democracy, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, all political detainees to be released and land, employment guarantee.”
People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone said the meeting was held cordially.
Altaf Bukhari of the Apni Party from J&K said Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended to all the issues raised by the parties. BJP Nirmal Singh said that all parties agreed for peace in J&K.
“The Delimitation Commission will hold discussions with everyone, after that things will move forward.” stated the BJP leader.
Former Chief Minister of the region, Omar Abdullah expressed disagreement with the abrogation of Article 370 and indicated that they will challenge the decision in court.
“We are not ready to accept it. But we won’t take the law into our hands. We will fight this in court. We also told Prime Minister Modi that there’s been a breach of trust between State and Centre. The Centre must restore it.”
Delimitation is redrawing the boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha constituency to indicate changes in the population ratio.
The commission is an independent body headed by retired Supreme Court judge and Chief Election Commissioner. The recommendations by party members are non-binding on the commission.
At the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi focused on delimitation to redraw the constituency of the union territory.
He said, “ Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected Government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory.”
After the meeting, the former Chief Minister of J&K Omar Abdullah expressed disagreements with re-drawing the constituency.
He said, “Why have Jammu and Kashmir been singled out for delimitation? We said delimitation was not needed. In other states, delimitation will be taken up in 2026, why have Jammu and Kashmir been singled out? If August 5 (2019) was to unite the state with India, then the delimitation process defeats the purpose as we are being singled out.”
After the region was segregated into two union territories, the center aimed to hold a legislative election and democratically elect a leader of the state, but delimitation has been a necessity.
The delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Constitution of India, and assembly seats were governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
The redrawing of the constituency of the region in the year 1995 was based on the census of 1981. However, after the 2001 census, the delimitation process was put to hold till 2026.
After August 2019, the dissolution of special status to J&K.
The Lok Sabha elections and assembly seats will now be governed by the Constitution of India. A fresh delimitation committee was set up, however, its work was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the J&K legislation has 90 seats. 24 seats will fall vacant as it falls under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The strength of Jammu and Kashmir before 2019 was 87 seats including 4 seats in Ladakh. Of the 87 seats, 46 are in Kashmir and 37 in Jammu.
The people in Jammu are disagreeing with the census of 2011 on which the delimitation is to be based. As of 2011, Kashmir’s population is over 68 lakh against Jammu’s population of 53 lakh. As per the population ratio, Kashmir will be given more seats.
The elections in J&K are due since 2018 after the Bharatiya Janata Party withdrew support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP government.