Panel suggests minimum 2 nominated seats for Kashmiri Pandits in J&K Assembly

The delimitation panel has recommended nomination of Kashmiri Pandits to at least two seats in the J&K assembly, in view of representations received on their ‘persecution over three decades’ and the need to help them ‘preserve political rights’. It also recommended that the Centre consider nominated representation in the House for persons displaced from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The panel chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjana Desai and chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra recommended that at least one of the nominated persons from the Pandit community should be a woman. Nominated members may be given voting rights in the House, similar to the one enjoyed by members of the assembly in Puducherry, it said.

“Displaced persons from PoJK also requested the commission to reserve a few seats for them in the J&K legislative assembly,” the panel said in a news release in New Delhi on Thursday. The previous J&K assembly had allowed nomination of two women MLAs. Two members from the Anglo-Indian community too were nominated to the Lok Sabha, until the Modi government got rid of the provision in 2019.

The panel does not have the power to reserve seats for Pandits or displaced persons as it had been tasked to redraw the constituency map of the UT, including increasing seats, based on demography. However, the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, gave it power to create reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes.

The recommendations are, however, likely to open the doors for nominated representation to Kashmiri Pandits. The community had taken the matter to the home ministry and the PMO, and sought amendments to the Reorganisation Act to allow for reservation of seats for Pandits. In discussions with the panel, it first pitched the Sangha ‘floating’ constituency model in Sikkim. However, this reservation was incorporated in the Constitution when Sikkim merged with the Indian Union, which was not the case of Pandits.

Ashwani Chrungoo, Kashmiri Pandit leader from BJP, termed the recommendation as historic and sought nomination for Kashmiri Sikhs too. “We will impress upon the government to make a provision for nominations to five seats in the assembly and one in Parliament,” Chrungoo told ET.

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