We are aware that Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits any form of discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. It prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. However, the State can make any special provision for women and children as well as for the advancement of all socially and educationally backward classes of citizens. This is necessary because despite the constitutional sanction against it, there is discrimination of various kinds on the ground.
The Union government established the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992. Six religious communities, namely; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified in the India Gazette as minority communities by the Union government across India including States in which one or the religious minority is in the majority. Thus, we have cases where the notified minority enjoys both the rights of local majority and national minority. Jammu Kashmir is the classic example of this contradiction.
The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, renamed in 1999 as the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, defined the minority as “a group numerically smaller than the group. rest of the population of a state, in a non-dominant position, whose members – being nationals of the state – possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics different from those of the rest of the population and manifest, if not implicitly, a meaning of solidarity oriented towards the preservation of their culture, traditions, religion or language ”. This background is primarily useful for understanding the case of religious minorities in the Kashmir valley to demand a mechanism of political representation in elected forums.
The reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 ended the institutionalized discrimination, restriction of basic rights and denial of justice that has plagued the former state for decades. The whole country, especially the people of J&K, rejoiced. Since then, they have witnessed a surge in development activities, improved delivery mechanisms, and transparency and accountability in governance. All these developments have amplified the expectations of the people and there is hope that the historic wrongs that have occurred in the past due to the one-sided, belligerent and inequitable demarcation of parliamentary constituencies and the assembly will finally be repaired.
Historically, the religious minorities (Hindu and Sikh) of Kashmir have been the worst victims and have faced organized marginalization, exclusion and ultimately outright expulsion. During and after 1947, this process of victimization became more implicit rather than declining. This gradual and tortuous process of exclusion and marginalization resulted in their representation in the state legislature declining from 4 in 1951 to 0 in 2009 and 2014. Not only were they completely eliminated from the legislature of the State. State, but their political influence within the territorial constituencies has also been deliberately reduced to the lowest possible level. It is the result of the gerrymandering of constituencies like HabbaKadal and AmiraKadal in Srinagar district; Anantnag, Bijbehara and Kothar in Anantnag and Devsar in Kulgam districts; and Handwara and Kupwara in Kupwara district. Institutionalized ostracism and segregation presented as “popular sentiment” resulted in the forced extirpation of almost the entire religious minority from the province of Kashmir.
It will be relevant to mention here that it is an internationally recognized obligation to ensure that mechanisms are in place so that the diversity of society with regard to minority groups is reflected in public institutions such as parliaments, utilities, etc. On 12-13 November 2009, the Forum on Minority Issues focused on minorities and effective political participation. A key reference for the session was Article 2 (2) of the United Nations Declaration on Minorities, which provides for the right of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities “to participate effectively in cultural activities, religious, social, economic and public. life “. For such participation to be effective, states must ensure that, beyond symbolic representation, minority representatives have an equally substantial influence on the decisions taken. whereas there may be actual collective ownership and impact of such decisions.
Across the world, many nation states have taken cognizance of this obligation and have ensured that minority groups are empowered to elect representatives of their choice. For example, New Zealand and the United States have made efforts to implement effective increases in minority representation in national legislatures. In the United States, this has been achieved by designing special minority majority districts that maximize the number of blacks in a congressional district. New Zealand has a nearly 150-year-old tradition of separate electorates for its indigenous Maori minority community which constitutes around 15 percent of the population. Other countries such as Belgium, Lebanon, Slovenia and Zimbabwe also make special arrangements for the representation of ethnic minorities.
In our nation itself, the framers of the constitution were aware of this responsibility to ensure the inclusion of marginalized, disadvantaged and underprivileged sections of society. This led to the concrete measure of the political reserve for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Even Anglo-Indian representation was assured in the form of seats in parliament and in state assemblies. The Sangha constituency in the Sikkim assembly is another example of special and affirmative accommodation to ensure representation of disadvantaged sections. It has no geographic boundaries and includes around 3,500 monks and nuns as voters. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 (15) reads as follows: “Notwithstanding anything in subsection (3) of section 14, the lieutenant governor of the successor territory of the Union of Jammu and Kashmir can appoint two members to the Legislative Assembly to represent women, if in its opinion women are not sufficiently represented in the Legislative Assembly ”.
This is under the same principle recognizing the need to include under-represented and unrepresented sections of society and to provide adequate and effective participation in policy planning and decision-making process. It is an indisputable foundation of democracy.
Another fact to be kept in mind when dealing with the issue of religious minorities in Kashmir is that Jammu region and Kashmir province are recognized as two different entities with mostly opinions and understanding. different on almost all issues. That is why governments have created two units of any institution like AIIMS, Central University and NIT, etc. It is possible that in the future these will be detached States / TUs.
In this vein, we, the religious minorities (Sikhs, Hindus etc) of the Kashmir valley plead for a positive action of the Delimitation Commission. It is hoped that justice, although late, will be served now.
The case is simple and can be summarized as follows:
a. Due to our systematic marginalization, exclusion, discrimination and ultimately expulsion from our homes and homes and
b. Recognizing the universally accepted principle of taking positive measures to ensure adequate and meaningful representation of minorities in public institutions
A well-defined and constitutionally guaranteed mechanism is provided by the broadly empowered and knowledgeable Boundary Commission to ensure appropriate, adequate, plausible and quantifiable representation of religious minorities (Hindu and Sikh) in the Kashmir Valley through legitimate participation in the mainstream. political scene thanks to a guaranteed electoral mechanism.
This is further necessitated by the absence of an Upper House or Legislative Council which could have accommodated certain representatives from unrepresented sections of society.
(The author is spokesperson BJP J&K and former member of the Legislative Council)