NEW DELHI: A new list of redrawn political constituencies was issued for Indian-occupied Kashmir on Thursday, giving greater representation to the Muslim-majority region’s Hindu areas and paving the way for fresh elections, Reuters reported.

In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government broke up the Indian-held territory into two federal territories as part of a move to tighten its grip over the region.

The occupied region originally comprised the mainly Muslim Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, and the remote Buddhist enclave of Ladakh.

The government said a delimitation commission had finalised 90 assembly constituencies for held Kashmir, excluding Ladakh, with 43 seats for Jammu and 47 for Kashmir. Earlier, Jammu had 37 seats and the Kashmir valley 46.

Pakistan demarches India over move to ‘disenfranchise’ Muslim majority in disputed valley

The commission, whose report has been rejected by J&K’s Peoples Democratic Party, said it had been difficult to accommodate competing claims from various sides, citing in a statement the region’s “peculiar geo-cultural landscape”.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said in January that elections would be held in J&K soon after the delimitation process was completed. He also promised to reinstate its statehood once its “situation became normal”.

The Jammu Kashmir National Confe­rence, which has governed the region, said it was studying the implications of the move that has been championed by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“No amount of gerrymandering will change the ground reality, which is that whenever elections are held the voter will punish the BJP and its proxies for what they have done to J&K over the last 4 years,” the National Conference said on Twitter.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Pakistan Foreign Office said that it had handed over a demarche to the Indian Charge d’Affaires, conveying the Government of Pakistan’s categorical rejection of the report of the so-called ‘Delimitation Commission’, which was aimed at disenfranchising and disempowering the Muslim majority population of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

The FO called on India to refrain from bringing about any illegal demographic changes in the occupied territory, stop forthwith its oppression in the IIOJK, and let the Kashmiri people determine their own future through a free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices as enshrined in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2022

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