Srinagar: The state Legislative Assembly has a total of 87 seats and 24 more have been reserved for Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a strong symbolic assertion that Kashmir is an unresolved dispute.
Despite the three wars and a mini war in Kargil which India and Pakistan have fought since their independence and despite numerous rounds of bilateral agreements and talks, the 24 vacant seats, political experts say, signify that strong efforts have to be initiated to solve Kashmir.
“The 24 seats reserved for PaK in our Assembly indicate that India still claims the territory of divided Kashmir under Pakistan control as its own,” Rekha Chowdhry, a former political science professor in Jammu University, told Kashmir reader.
“From the perspective of Jammu and Kashmir, it believes the two parts of Kashmir are an individual state. The seats signify that Kashmir issue is not closed,” she added.
She said it is very hard for India to step down from its stated position on PaK, which it claims its own, till the final solution of the political problem is found.
Former National Conference leader and Member of Parliament, Dr Mehboob Beg said J&K has never accepted boundary dividing two Kashmirs, hence the 24 vacant seats.
“The only time we have reached to solve the problem to address the issue of these seats was at the time of former Pakistan President General Musharraf’s rule. His four point proposal was accepted by everybody except Syed Ali Geelani,” Beg said.
The Assembly was initially composed of 100 members, later increased to 111 by the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (Twentieth Amendment) Act of 1988. Of these, 24 seats are reserved for PaK areas.
According to the J&K Assembly website, these seats are not taken into account to consider the total membership of the Assembly, especially for deciding quorum and voting majorities for legislation and government formation.
Political analyst Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain said that in the current geo-political scenario, the 24 vacant seats in Assembly hold significance since it continue to remind the world that Kashmir is a disputed state.
“The assigning of 24 seats is a legal requirement. When a country perceives a certain territory as its own, it becomes a part of provision in the legislature. Hence Kashmir continues to be disputed territory and 24 seats in the Assembly indicates JK is a disputed territory controlled by different sovereign states,” Hussain said.
He said that PaK has also kept seats reserved in its legislature for the Kashmiris living under Indian control.
However, while J&K Assembly has reserved seats for the PaK areas, no proportionate seats have been reserved in the Indian Parliament. Last year, the UPA government was reported to be working on a proposal to create Lok Sabha seats for PaK, which would require amending Article 81 of the constitution.
The proposal mooted by Home ministry had pointed to the mismatch between J&K and Indian constitutions: while seats have been reserved in the state Assembly, there are none in the Lok Sabha.