Monday, April 12, 2021
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Ladakh Demands Assembly Pandits Want Seat In Assembly

B L Saraf

In a major development the Apex Committee of Leh, formed to project Ladakh UT’s problems that have arisen after J & K’s reorganization in 2019 , has put forth a demand before a Union Home Ministry –led panel for grant of Legislature to the UT. As reported, they want Sikkim type 30 seated Legislature: basing their argument on the fact that population of Sikkim is slightly more than that of Ladakh UT . This demand is in addition to Ladakh’s claim to have Sixth –Schedule status . The strategic geographic position of the region having borders with China and Pakistan is buttressed to support the demand .

Ladakh has rejected the offer for grant of domicile certificates to the people in UT ; on the ground that people living in the UT for 15 plus years will also be entitled to the domicile status which will affect demographic character of the region and severely curtail locals chances to get public employment ,besides putting pressure on sparse land. The Apex Committee wants restoration of State Subject certificate which existed in the erstwhile J& K state .It marks a significant development that these demands come when celebrations in Ladakh for getting delinked from Jammu and Kashmir and grant of UT status are not over ,yet . After effects of the reorganization of erstwhile J K State are truly showing.

Ostensibly ,reference to Sikkim has been made to underscore population criterion for having a legislative Assembly. But to a discerning observer the ‘other ‘ underlying point can’t escape attention .When we have a look at the composition of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly and the reservation it has made for the representation of various religious and ethnic groups , this reference can’t be read only to the population content . There is much more to it than meets the eye. There are other similarities, as well , which call for an attention . Both societies are tribal in nature ; so is their geography. People of different religion , ethnicities and culture inhabitant area in Ladakh as is the case with Sikkim .Both are border areas with China looming large , ready to play mischief . Sikkim Assembly by having provision for reservation for disempowered minority groups of people and religious leaders has managed differences well .In fact 13 out of total 32 seats stand reserved for various sections of the Sikkim society.

Ladakh’s case has more strength because it is in the utmost national interest that Leh and Kargil ( important constituents of the region ) are on the same page - at least on the issues which have national and international bearing . To ensure this the intra –regional harmony is extremely necessary. A Legislative Assembly which takes into account sub-regional sensitivities , religious -ethnic considerations ,with assured representation of minority and disempowered groups will provide an excellent tool to forge intra-regional unity and cohesion. It is more important if China is to be kept at bay . China’s experience in Ladakh over the past year may have persuaded Beijing that India of today is not a push over : at the same time this experience may force much closer collaboration between China and Pakistan , where Ladakh may have to bear maximum brunt of such a collaboration . So Ladakh –including Kargil has to remain calm and content.

The Delimitation of Constituencies in J &K ,as envisaged by PART V of The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019, is underway . A Commission set up for the purpose is on the job , though belatedly . Various political groups and sections of the society have made representations before the Commission. The displaced Pandits want Commission to reserve couple of seats in the J &K Assembly- proportionate to their demographic numbers. The defining traits of the community and threat to its existence are , also, set forth to strengthen the claim .

Providentially may be , for the displaced Pandits reference to Sikkim Assembly has come at the most opportune time when they are stressing their claim to have some space in UT’s legislature. So they are clamoring for a couple of seats , kept reserved for them in the reconstituted Legislative Assembly . Naturally , it is time for the Pandits to press hard their claim , off curse , with facts -historical , geographical and political - but shorn of un necessary rhetoric .

Farfetched it may look , the reservation of one seat for Sangha lamas ,in Sikkim Assembly , positioned in different Buddhist Monasteries across Sikkim may come handy to the case of displaced persons. It does bear some resemblance to their cause . Sangha constituency is intangible in terms of territorial constituency. No geographical boundaries are required for it. The Sikkim Assembly has one seat reserved for Buddhist Monks living in different Monasteries in the state , for which Lamas of whole Sikkim , themselves , make the electorate. So , this Constituency spreads across Sikkim state with no bounded territory .The candidate standing election for this constituency doesn’t have to face geographical or local residential constraints . Here Pandits can argue let few seats be reserved for them and other displaced persons to contest in Kashmir - their original and permanent place of abode , for which they and the other displaced persons could make the electorate . The fixed territorial considerations may be wavered so that they could be as intangible constituencies as is the one for Lamas in Sikkim .

It must be stated that creation of Sangha constituency has withstood the test of constitutionality, when the Apex Court, in 1993 , in R C Pouyal & Others versus UOI and others upheld the reservation.

The displaced Pandits may draw some comfort from the reason and logic that the Supreme Court took into the consideration while upholding reservation for Sangah in Sikkim Assembly and can put forth same to support their case . The court said that Sikkim Sangha Assembly seat is a perfect example of State’s unique political process to protect minority rights . And further held that such a reservation is not religious based . The reasoning could well be imported to the Pandits case : after all everyone is agreed that KPs constitute a distinct sect which is on the verge of extinction and ,therefore , needs to be protected. Due space in the legislature is one of the ways such protection and preservation could be ensured .

It looks ridiculous that a displaced person stranded hundreds of miles away from the constituency is called up on to vote for filling up of such constituency ,in Kashmir , by a person whom he doesn’t know and who-the candidate- doesn’t care to make his face known to him- his voter.

However, this is a big ask for whose fulfillment indulgence of PM Narrandra Modi and HM Shah is indispensable requirement .Could displaced persons muster enough clout to bring it bear on the two worthies ? Let they remind them of the promises made by BJP and PM himself to do complete justice to the displaced Pandits . Time ,surely, has arrived to redeem those promises .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge)

(Disclaimer: The views, observations and opinions expressed in above write up of Scoop News are strictly author's own. Scoop News does not take any onus or liability for the veracity, accuracy, validity, completeness, suitability of any of information in the above given write up. The information, facts or figures appearing in the write up in no way manifest the position, standpoint or stance of Scoop News and the Scoop News does not assume any encumbrance or answerability of the same. All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of competent Courts and Forums in Jammu City Only)

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