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India's Kashmir region gets redrawn constituencies ahead of elections

India's Kashmir region gets redrawn constituencies ahead of elections

Tourists ride boats called shikaras in the waters of Dal Lake during sunset in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on Apr 5, 2022. (File photo: Reuters/Danish Ismail)

NEW DELHI: India published on Thursday (May 5) a new list of redrawn political constituencies for the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, giving greater representation to the Muslim-majority region's Hindu areas and paving the way for fresh elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government broke up Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories in 2019 as part of a move to tighten its grip over the region, which is at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility between India and Pakistan.

Anticipating protests in a region fighting Indian rule for decades, the government put many political leaders under house arrest and cut off Internet connections when it announced the move to split the state.

Jammu and Kashmir originally comprised the mainly Muslim Kashmir Valley - the bone of contention between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan - the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, and the remote Buddhist enclave of Ladakh.

The government said that a delimitation commission had finalised 90 assembly constituencies for Jammu and Kashmir, excluding Ladakh, with 43 seats for Jammu and 47 for Kashmir. Earlier, Jammu had 37 seats and the Kashmir Valley 46.

The commission, whose report has been rejected by Jammu and Kashmir's Peoples Democratic Party, said that it had been difficult to accommodate competing claims from various sides, citing in a statement the region's "peculiar geo-cultural landscape".

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said in January that elections would be held in Jammu and Kashmir soon after the delimitation process was completed. He also promised to reinstate its statehood once its "situation became normal".

The Jammu Kashmir National Conference, which has governed the region, said that it was studying the implications of the move that has been championed by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"No amount of gerrymandering will change the ground reality, which is that whenever elections are held, the voter will punish the BJP and its proxies for what they have done to (Jammu and Kashmir) over the last four years," the National Conference said on Twitter.

The BJP said on Twitter that it would change Jammu and Kashmir's image and future for the better if voted into power.

Source: Reuters/kg

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