The Lok Sabha (lower house of the Parliament) of India has passed two important pieces of legislation regarding Jammu and Kashmir. These are the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023,
The first bill is aimed at amending the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019) while the second bill is aimed at amending the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004.
The two legislations are being viewed by the Opposition parties as an attempt by the Modi government to recalibrate the political landscape to their advantage ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The reason is that on the surface level, the two bills seem to woo the Kashmiri Pandits and Pahadi community of the region.
India’s Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah announced the seats arrangement under the new legislation as follows:
“Earlier there were 37 seats in Jammu which have now become 43, earlier there were 46 seats in Kashmir which have now become 47, and 24 seats have been kept reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir because POK is ours.”
“Earlier there were 107 seats in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, now there are 114 seats, earlier there were two nominated members in the assembly, now there will be five,” Shah said.
The state governor nominates these members of which two will be women, two Kashmiri (displaced anywhere in India) migrants and one from PoK, Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha.
Amit Shah, who is on record saying he would lay his life for that part of Kashmir., said that the PoK was an integral part of India, a position India has held historically.
This is the implementation of a 2022 report produced over two years (March 2020 – May 2022) on delimitation in the Kashmir valley based on the 2011 India Census. The Commission which produced this report was headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Desai with Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and state election commission K K Sharma.
The Opposition is up in arms.
“Why reserve seats for Pandits – name them,” Asaduddin Owaisi, Lok Sabha MP from the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen said.
Owaisi also questioned why the definition of “displaced persons” does not include Muslims who could have been forced to migrate to PoK.
He claimed 3% of the displaced persons are Muslims and admitted the rest are members of the Pahadi and Gujjar communties.
PoK is part of India, says Amit Shah
“I want to make it absolutely clear that every single time we say Jammu and Kashmir, it includes Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit-Baltistan) as well as Aksai Chin. Let there be no doubt over it. Entire Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India,” Amit Shah told his colleagues and the whole world.
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