New Domicile Rules

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The J&K Government has notified new domicile certificate procedure rules 2020 and set the  process in motion to issue the certificates within a stipulated time of 15 days. The new rules have empowered a tehsildar to issue such certificates. The Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner will do so in the case of migrants. The applicant can also both submit the application and receive the certificate electronically.

At the same time any tehsildar  who fails to issue a  certificate to applicants on time may attract punishment of up to Rs 50,000 that will be withdrawn from their salary. According to the rules, individuals who have resided in J&K for 15 years or have studied for seven years or appeared in examinations for class 10th or 12th can be eligible for the grant of a domicile certificate.

The National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have rejected the new domicile rules saying it is “aimed at changing the demography of the erstwhile State of J&K”.

The rules have struck off the term ‘permanent resident’ and replaced it with ‘domicile’, which means anyone who has resided in J&K for fifteen years. The rule has been relaxed for the central government officials who must have served in the region for ten years for them as also their children to qualify for domicile status. The rule is even more lenient for the students from outside the region, who must have “studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th/12th examinations”.

Much like the revocation of Article 370, the domicile law has been issued without taking J&K’s public and political opinion on board. This has only further deepened a sense of political disempowerment among people. More so, when  there is no political leader in Kashmir in a position to stick his neck out. Two former J&K Chief Ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and the son Omar Abdullah have been largely silent since their recent release from months-long detention following withdrawal of Article 370 in August last.

However, considering the far-reaching fallout of the new law on the demographic landscape of J&K, the situation in the UT has been plunged into a deep uncertainty.  The move has already eroded any shred of legitimacy that New Delhi blessed new J&K politics might have enjoyed. It has also dented the credibility of the established mainstream politicians who are now blamed for bringing this upon the region by always siding with New Delhi. However, any visible expression of the public anger against Centre is likely to be contained by the ongoing preoccupation with coronavirus. That said, New Delhi should review the new law as a confidence building measure towards J&K. This would go a long way to address the alienation in the Union Territory.

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