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Kashmiri Pandit Body Demands Reservation of Three Assembly Seats in the Valley

Anees Zargar |
The demand from the group had been made after the Lok Sabha passed the bills that reserved two Assembly seats for Kashmiri migrant community members and one seat for PoK refugees.

Image courtesy: X

Srinagar: The Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), a prominent advocacy group of Kashmiri pandits, has urged the government to reserve at least three Legislative Assembly seats in the valley for the minority community instead of nominating the members. 

The demand from the group had been made after the Lok Sabha passed the important Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, that reserved two Assembly seats for Kashmiri migrant community members and one seat for PoK refugees.

The KPSS president Sanjay Tickoo, in a scathing statement, argued that the bill reserved 33% of seats in the J&K Assembly for women, which is one of the major reforms initiated to empower women of the UT on political platforms and decision-making systems but added that the nomination of Kashmiri Pandits to the Assembly is a "token of freebie" to keep a community silent. 

"Freebies were a necessity of the government's responsibility for failing to protect Kashmir's minuscule religious minority when the community was forcibly relocated from their aboriginal places in Kashmir Valley, but now it has become a trend to treat the Kashmiri Pandit community as beggars rather than a respectful community of the state," he said. 

Tickoo, who has been at the forefront of the struggling valley-based minority community, added that the nomination to the Assembly is as good as the creation of supernumerary posts under the PM's Package. 

"One can earn a wage but not equality because the position was not created by the establishment. They can be treated as anything other than an employee of the establishment," he said. 

The Kashmir-based political parties also expressed their resentment over the reservation of seats, stating that such decisions should be made by the regional stakeholders or at least after consulting with them. 

The Kashmiri pandit leader said that the members of the Assembly, who are similarly nominated, will not have the same respect and dignity as those who are elected to the seat and will represent the people who have shown or executed trust in them to be their true leader and representative in the law-making forum. 

"It is time to demand a political space in Kashmir Valley where a Kashmiri Pandit can run for and win a seat in the J&K Assembly with equality and respect, rather than one who is nominated without the backing and trust of the community he claims to represent in the legislative forum," the statement read. 

The body further argued that it could be "humiliating" for the person who does not have actual support from the community they purport to represent, as well as frustrating for the community because they do not get a person they believe should be part of the law-making process. 

"If political parties are truly concerned about the Kashmiri Pandit community, they should propose and advocate for the reservation of at least three seats in the J&K Assembly from Kashmir for the Kashmiri Pandit Community to truly empower an aboriginal community that has suffered as a result of the policies of vested interests and corrupt systems and has been on the receiving end for ages," Tickoo said.  

The political leadership, including former lawmaker MY Targiami from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), have slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government for making "undemocratic and unconstitutional decisions". 

The regional leadership, including former chief ministers of J&K Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, have accused the BJP of disempowering people by refusing to hold Assembly elections since 2018 despite the completion of the so-called delimitation process, upgradation of electoral rolls amidst the claims of normalcy.

"The nomination of two members from the Kashmiri Pandit community to the Legislative Assembly reeks of the current dispensation's intentions of never rehabilitating them in their native places," Targiami told NewsClick earlier.  

The KPSS proposed three seats can be offered to the community: one in North Kashmir, one in South Kashmir, and one in Central Kashmir, and except for those who desire to run independently, any political party may nominate a Kashmiri Pandit from its cadres to run for a Legislative Seat. 

It added that previously, the Panchayat and Municipal Council elections created the door for political hopefuls to come to ground zero and contest elections against their own kind in order to be a part of the law-making process with the active backing of the majority community. 

"At the very least, a political relationship can be seen between the two communities when one has to support another to be their true and trustworthy representative who will work impartially," Tickoo added.  

Almost every political party operating in Jammu and Kashmir has a migrant or minority cell to address the aspirations and concerns of the community. The KPSS urged the political parties to empower the members to contest and lead from the front on seats they believe should be reserved for members of the community. 

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