Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam
When both articles 370 & 35-A were amended under J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 political and social hopes increased in the Sikh community of J&K. It’s true that every Sikh family living in J&K was not happy with amendments done in these both articles. But somewhere adding to joy was the fresh map issued by the Government of India in November 2019 which showed PoJK as part of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the clauses in the above said act also reflected that the delimitation process has to take place and this generated hope among some Sikhs that a road forward will be created to ensure political & social empowerment of their community. Besides, political and social relief seemed near, as the above said act mandated creation of new assembly constituencies in J&K. The Sikh community which suffered majorly due to partition of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 took this moment as an opportunity which can provide them a bright future. It was also because, after 1947 Sikhs settled in areas like Bhor, Chatha, Simbal, Gadigarh, Badyal Brahmana, Keerian Gandyal and Raj Bagh of Jammu region lived in such conditions which cannot be defined in words. Furthermore, in the last 70 years they were never given their share in politics as political parties didn’t care for the community members in particular.
Then came March 2020 and the three-member delimitation commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai was set up for the purpose of drawing up the boundaries of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies . Sikhs living in areas like Gandhi Nagar, RS Pura, Suchetgarh, Nowshera and Vijaypur in Jammu region and Batmaloo, Baramulla and Tral in Kashmir region started feeling empowered as they thought that these areas may take shape of assembly constituencies after the delimitation exercise gets completed. Another thought floated that 24 seats reserved for PoJK refugees would be de-freezed and allotted to the PoJK refugees settled in Jammu. Interestingly, the majority of the Sikhs living in J&K are PoJK refugees and for the last 70 years, these PoJK refugees always demanded proper representation in the J&K assembly. So this time the Sikh community was sure of getting their political share either in the form of reservation in seats or under quota of seats already reserved for PoJK refugees.
As the process for delimitation moved ahead, several Sikh delegations met the Commission members in Jammu as well as in Kashmir and in a way pleaded before them to get some constituencies reserved for the local Sikh community. After the lengthy process followed in the past two years and amid ongoing pandemic and after facing delays Delimitation Commission proposed in a draft report that six more seats will be given in the Jammu region and only one additional seat in Kashmir. Now the new proposed legislative assembly house of J&K would consist of 90-members. Infact 16 assembly seats under the proposed draft are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Jammu & Kashmir.
Sadly, the Delimitation Commission has ruled out reserving any seat for Sikh community and even de-freezing of 24 seats reserved for PoJK people weren’t done under delimitation drive. Although what all work has been done by the Commission is a welcome move but in total Sikhs who came from Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad, Bhimber, Kotli, Bagh and Mirpur areas are disappointed with the delimitation exercise because issues of the community were left unaddressed. Talking of the present situation, now the work of Delimitation Commission is nearing to end as recently Commission held meetings with members of the public and civil society groups who have submitted suggestions and objections on its draft delimitation proposal. In these visible conditions put forth by the Delimitation Commission nothing changed politically for Sikh community and Sikhs feel alienated again as there would be none to represent Sikhs, their problems and concerns in the new Assembly of J&K.
The Article is written by Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam
(BSL, LLB, LLM, PGDHRM, Ph.D) and The Northern Herald Don't take responcibility of content