On May 5, 2022, the Delimitation Commission of India submitted a final report proposing a redrawing of electoral constituencies in the contentious state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Commission has increased the number of Assembly seats by seven- six in Hindu-majority Jammu (for a total of 43 seats), and one in Muslim-majority Kashmir (now 47). The report also suggests reserving two seats for “Kashmiri migrants,” or Hindus living in the region. All political parties in J&K oppose these changes, except for the Narendra Modi-led, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Critics of Modi suggest this move is an “assault against” India’s secular constitution and suggest this will only strengthen the BJP’s electoral power. It is also believed that this is another avenue for Modi to continue his regime of oppression against Muslims in India.
Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that the redrawn electoral constituencies will allow the BJP to expand its Hindu nationalist power in J&K over the next 6 months.
- Modi ran both of his campaigns on platform promises of installing a Hindu chief minister in J&K. Indian-administered Kashmir has historically been ruled by local political parties and a Muslim chief minister. The redrawing of the region’s constituencies is estimated to lower the winning chances of Muslim candidates in the region.
- Critics of Modi claim the delimitation exercise will disempower and disenfranchise Muslims in the region, and “make the Muslim vote irrelevant,” decreasing their political agency. (Source)
- The BJP claims that the new electoral changes are fair and non-discriminatory. Given the political party’s history of religious chauvinism and deeply discriminatory and Islamophobic policies, it is likely this is untrue.
Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that this decision will cause political opposition and unrest throughout India in the next six months
- Opposition parties and civil society organizations throughout the region met last week to discuss their dissent against the new constituencies. They argued that the commission’s recommendations go against geographic realities in the region and are highly biased. (source)
- Many local parties in the region recently joined the larger Aam Admi Party (AAP), hoping to lessen the BJP’s electoral influence in upcoming elections. The AAP promised free electricity and healthcare in the region if they win. (source)
- Since the release of the commission’s report, protests have emerged throughout the region. Political parties throughout the region staged peaceful sit-ins in front of the Election Commission office, but it is estimated these protests could turn hostile. (source)
Key Judgement 3: It is likely that the redrawing of constituency seats in Kashmir will contribute to India’s ongoing democratic backslide over the next six months.
- The newly formed assembly constituencies will most likely distort the balance of electoral power in the region in favour of non-Muslim voters, even though the region’s population is predominately Muslim. (source)
- The BJP claims that a Muslim chief of minister in J&K is unfair to Hindu-majority Jammu, even though Jammu’s population is smaller than Muslim-majority Kashmir.
- In late 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs was accused of tampering with population figures of J&K on its website, falsely showing Kashmir’s population to be 2 million less than that of Jammu. (source)
- The Modi government has a history of propagating the idea of the imagined threat Muslims pose to Hindus in India. The Modi government’s rhetoric and actions, including the recent report by the Delimitation Committee in Jammu and Kashmir, threaten India’s secular democracy. (source)
Intelligence Cut-Off Date: July 9, 2022