Srinagar: The announcement made by Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his recent J&K visit assuring ST status to the Pahari community has ruffled many a feather among the Gujjar/Bakarwal community of the union territory.
The delimitation commission in its final report had recommended ST status for the Gujjar/Bakarwal community of the UT.
The delimitation commission recommended reserving nine of the 90 Assembly seats in J&K for the Gujjar/Bakarwal community where only a candidate from this community can stand for the elections.
After Amit Shah announced that the Pahari community will also get the ST status, apprehensions naturally arose among the Gujjar/Bakarwal community that the Paharis could chip into their share of the reserved status in J&K.
Amit Shah tried to allay the apprehensions by assuring Gujjars and Bakarwals that Paharis would not encroach on their quota of already announced reservations.
A major problem in segregating the ST reservations between the two communities is that while Gujjars/Bakarwals form a sizeable number of population in the Assembly constituencies reserved for them by the delimitation commission, Paharis, on the other hand, exist in the Assembly constituencies of Rajouri, Poonch, Kupwara and Baramulla district with ‘diffuse’ numbers.
For example, the percentage of Gujjar voters in the Kangan constituency of Kashmir division is 39 per cent as compared to the Kashmiri Muslim voters. Kangan is one of the nine Assembly constituencies recommended by the delimitation commission to be reserved for the Gujjar/Bakarwal community.
In comparison to this, the Pahari voter percentage in the Uri constituency of Baramulla district is not more than 25 per cent.
How can constituencies be reserved for Paharis based on their diffused population in J&K and also how can those already recommended to be reserved for the Gujjar/Bakarwal community be kept intact while granting the same ST reservation for the Paharis?
Amit Shah’s genuine concern to support the Pahari community that has for long been demanding reservation along with Gujjars and Bakarwals notwithstanding, the fine tuning and balancing the split of share in STs of the two communities would be walking the tightrope for New Delhi.