Notification issued by the State Election Commission, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, on February 1, 2020, has turned into a 'historic step' to politically empower the marginalized and neglected sections of the society.
Tazeem Akthar, the first and the only female Scheduled Tribe (ST) chairman of the total of twenty District Development Councils (DDCs) in the Union Territory of J&K, observes that by granting political reservation to ST women authorities have provided an opportunity to the females of the weaker sections to claim their share in the 'power politics.'
After successfully completing the first-ever extraordinary elections of DDCs in J&K, authorities took a revolutionary step by reserving seats of chairpersons for the marginalized and neglect lot of the society. Not only four seats of DDCs chairperson were reserved for women, but one seat of chairperson was also reserved for ST women.
"Today I am the only woman ST chairperson in the whole UT of J&K and it is all due to the political reservations granted to STs in the Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections held after August 5, 2019," Tazeem Akthar, told International Business Times. She is confident that other ST women will be encouraged by this 'revolutionary' decision of the UT administration.
Akthar scripted a new chapter in the political history of J&K
After completing her MA-B.Ed, Tazeem Akthar was seriously thinking to join the teaching profession but the decision of the UT administration to grant reservation to STs in DDC elections encouraged her to join the electoral battle.
"Instead of demanding mandate from any political party, I decided to contest election as an Independent candidate from Sathara DDC constituency of the border district of Poonch," she recalled. Despite facing a joint candidate of Gupkar Alliance, she won the election, and later she was elected as chairperson of Poonch DDC.
STs empowered politically after the abrogation of Article 370
First time in the history of J&K, the political reservation was granted to STs in ULBs and Panchayat elections. J&K is the only state in northwest India having a share of nearly 15 percent population of STs. As per the 2011 census, total population of STs in J&K counted 14.9 lakh among them 13.2 lakh are Muslim, 1 lakh are Buddhist and about 67,000 Hindu.
After decades-long struggle tribes of the erstwhile state of J&K were granted ST status in the year 1991 when the state was under the Governor's rule. In J&K, four communities, namely Gujjar, Bakarwal, Gaddi, and Sippi were notified as the Scheduled Tribes vide the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Act, 1991.
Since 1991, STs were agitating to get a political reservation in J&K like other parts of the country. It was only after the abrogation of Article 370, their demand was fulfilled.