The two Kashmir Bills passed by Parliament are a great initiative of the Narendra Modi government to restore peace and harmony in Jammu and Kashmir. This follows its August 5, 2019, decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and vivisect the state into two Union Territories. The Bills are silent on Ladakh, which had four seats in the erstwhile Assembly. Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that 24 seats would be reserved for Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) when it is integrated into the Indian Union. As of now, it is a symbolic gesture, like the seats the PoK Assembly had once reserved for the Indian part of Kashmir.
Shah was, as usual, eloquent about what happened in the past, blaming Jawaharlal Nehru for the Kashmir issue. He said delimitation of constituencies on the basis of demographic growth was essential, forgetting that it would amount to rewarding states that did not accept family planning against those that curtailed their population. That is why the membership of Parliament was frozen so that states like UP, Uttarakhand, and Bihar do not steal a march over states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where population growth is comparable to that of many European countries. Jammu will now have 43 seats against 37 earlier. The Valley will have its representation grow from 46 to 47. There will be five seats to be nominated, against two earlier.
While Shah was emotional about the tragedy that befell the Kashmiri Pandits, it is a matter of coincidence that his own Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat has the single largest concentration of refugees from the riots that rocked the state in 2002-2003. By no stretch of the imagination can Nehru be blamed for the refugee colony in Gandhinagar. Nobody would grudge if the representation given to the Kashmiri Pandits encourages them to return to the Valley and occupy their ancestral land and buildings. The moot question is when elections will be held in the Union Territory. It is easy to claim that everything is hunky-dory in J&K, and terrorism has become a thing of the past. Had that been the case, Shah’s party would not have suffered a drubbing in the recent elections in Ladakh when it could win only two seats. Since the taste of the pudding is in the eating, one has to wait to know how the two Bills will transform J&K.