Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Kaisar Andrabi and Zubair Amin warn against India’s attempts to manipulate the demographics and electoral strength of Kashmir, the only Muslim majority region in India.
In their piece, they highlight India’s proposed delimitation programme which would break up the semi-autonomous state of Kashmir into several new voting units that would “give numerical heft to the southern region of Jammu, where there is a larger concentration of Hindu voters”.
They further explain that this shift will arise by gerrymandering the map based on data collected from this year’s census, in which four north-eastern states were omitted, and by mandating reserve seats in the Senate which would dilute the power of the Muslim majority.
The writers highlight that delimitation was based on population size it would favour the Kashmir Valley which holds a population of 6.8 million compared to Jammu’s 5.3 million, according to the 2011 census. However, the BJP over the years has been demanding that area be considered as the main factor which would grant more power to the Jammu, which spans over 10,100 square miles compared to Jammu’s 6,100 square miles.
In addition, the BJP has pushed for reserved seats in the senate for Dalits, tribal groups and Kashmiri Pandits who migrated to Jammu in the 1990s, following the insurgency in Kashmir against Indian rule. This would limit the seats available for the Kashmir valley. Until August 2019, Jammu and Kashmir had 111 seats in its state legislative assembly. The Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley had a share of 46 seats, while Jammu had 37. 24 seats were reserved for the people of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which India claims.
The BJP has also indicated their interest in reserving seats for refugees who migrated from Pakistan and settled in Jammu during the India-Pakistan wars in 1947 and 1965.
The writers further allege that the population of non-Kashmiri Indians in the Kashmir valley has inflated since New Delhi enabled any Indian citizen to purchase land in the region.
Increasingly India has cracked down on civil society actors, journalists and protesters by detaining them under draconian anti-terrorism legislation.
Speaking to Foreign Policy magazine, Rahullah Mehdi, a senior political leader of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, noted that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological forerunner of the BJP, “has an ideological objective which they want to achieve in Kashmir. They are anti-Muslim and anti-secularism. And empowered Muslims do not fit in their ideology,”
He further added:
“Kashmiri Muslims have a double crime in their understanding—that they are Muslims and Muslims with a state.”
Read the full op-ed here.