India’s Kashmir region gets redrawn political constituencies ahead of elections

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India published on Thursday a new list of redrawn political constituencies for the former state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), 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 J&K 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.

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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.

J&K 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 a delimitation commission had finalized 90 assembly constituencies for J&K, 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 J&K’s Peoples Democratic Party, said 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 J&K 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 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 J&K over the last 4 years,” the National Conference said on Twitter.

The BJP said on Twitter it would change J&K’s image and future for the better if voted to power.

Read more: Indian forces kill 62 militants this year in disputed Kashmir: Police

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