As per new criteria, any person who has resided in the region for 15 years is eligible to become the domicile of J&K. Meanwhile, it is 10 years in the case of any Central Government official (and their children) and 7 years for high school students. Moreover, the UT administration issued Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (procedure) rules, 2020 to ensure the speedy process of domicile certification. These rules need officials to give a domicile certificate to eligible candidates within 15 days of application. Also, fine of Rs.50,000 is to be deducted from the respective official in case of non-compliance with the time limit.
Is the New Domicile Law Mandatory?
But the question is why did BJP create this new category of residents in the region? More so when it already abrogated the special status of J&K in August 2019.
There can be various aspects related to this action. After the removal of the special status of J&K, there had been a huge demand from Hindu-occupied districts. Their demand was to secure government jobs for local people. ‘Apni Party’ formed in March 2020 also had this demand to secure property rights and government jobs for the local residents. It is important to note that the Hindu population forms a major part of the local government body in the valley. Thus, it was important for both the Central Government and the new political party to gather large support from these masses.
Even though this job plan would benefit the parties to some extent, the introduction of a separate domicile category is an important step. It was to carry forward the agenda for which removal of Article 370 took place. Moreover, there had been various talks about the movement of a large number of Muslims into the valley. Once the bar on the sale of land and the immovable property gets lifted, there would be a huge influx of Muslims. With this new domicile law, the Central Government can control its movement to make sure that its abrogation plan does not fall apart.
The Way Forward: Will the Panic Settle?
The new domicile law reserved only lower fourth class jobs for the locals in its initial stage. But after receiving a reprisal from the Hindu-dominated region, BJP amended the law to reserve all jobs for the domiciles.
Besides this, two more amendments took place in the initial order. The eligibility basis for Central Government employees changed from “have served” to “shall have served”. This qualifies those employees also who have already served for 10 years or will serve in the future. To avoid any confusion, the Central Government also changed “shall be deemed to be a domicile” to “shall be a domicile”.
In Kashmir, an estimated 600,000 security forces are being mobilized to battle militancy. Besides, there are around 700,000 migrant labourers in the region. Local residents have a fear that a large number of both these “outside” sections would become a domicile.
“Even during a pandemic of colossal size, a party is going ahead with its Hindutva project to further dispossess Kashmir politically, economically and psychologically. With the obvious aim to instigate a demographic change,” Gowhar Geelani, a Srinagar-based political commentator, wrote on Facebook. “Tough questions should be asked of all political formations across the ideological spectrum for their inability to safeguard Kashmir’s interests.”
The Central Government has already accepted 300,000 West Pakistan Refugees as domiciles. Most of these refugees are Hindu. When Article 370 was in force, these refugees were barred from becoming the citizens. New Delhi is also trying to attract corporate leaders and traders to invest in Kashmir with an alluring offer of a 6,000-acre land area. Non-state subjects would also increase the existing unemployment situation in the region. All these actions have created a wave of panic amongst the local population about their survival in the valley.
Even though the rules on the time frame for granting domicile are strict, there is a rationale behind it. With so many days of internet lockdown in Kashmir valley, the rage amongst the population has already increased. As a result, militancy is on the rise in the region, recent attacks on the Army soldiers being a testimony to it. It is but obvious that there will be huge pressure on government servants to not follow these orders. Pressure from masses or the officer’s prejudice might hamper the process. The penalty upon government officials is to make sure that no eligible person under the new domicile law remains uncertified.
Thinking from India’s perspective, Pakistan which earlier depended on a plebiscite to resolve the issue before the UN will have less support from the valley after the influx of non-state subjects.
As for the unemployment crisis, investments from big corporate houses would create greater job opportunities in the valley. This would also help in uplifting the economy of the state. The unemployment crisis once resolved, would also reduce the cases of armed conflict and terrorism in the region.
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