‘Review, Revoke’: Rage Reactions Relentless on New Domicile Order

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Panthers Party’s Harshdev Singh against domicile law. (File Photo)

Following New Delhi’s formal domicile law notification on April this year, Jammu and Kashmir administration’s latest fast-track resident-ship certificate procuring exercise has drawn a sharp retort from local unionists, while leaving people aghast and angry.

Sajad Bhat | Mrinal Pathak

READING distressing reactions on her social media handle, Iram Rizvi is getting worried for her three-year-old son. Will things be the same for him when he grows up in Kashmir? The 36-year-old mother wonders, as union territory administration set the new domicile order in motion, almost on a war-footing.

The manner in which non-locals will be made domiciles of J&K on the basis of a ration card, electricity bill or labour card unsettled Rizvi, who runs boutique in Srinagar.

“While these non-locals can easily avail domicile certificates online, I see natives falling in big lines in near future to prove their resident-ship on the basis of PRCs,” Rizvi said.

“It’s as good, as falling in line for the NRC process!”

The new controversy reared its head after New Delhi made a turnaround on the notification released on April 02, 2020 regarding the new domicile law in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

“While this law was bound to see the light of the day in Jammu and Kashmir after Article 370 was abrogated last summer, but the manner they’re implementing it makes the entire process sinister,” Iram continued.

“Sadly, what’s equally emboldening New Delhi and its local bureaucratic machinery to toy and tinker with the laws of the erstwhile state is the absence and growing silence of local unionist camp.”

Even as the beleaguered unionists raised their pitch against the move, the ruling BJP party called it a long overdue move.

According to the new law, anyone who has resided in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years or has studied there for seven years and appeared for the Class 10 and Class 12 examinations in a school located in the Union territory is a domicile.

“As far as I can see it,” Habeel Shah, a resident of Srinagar, said, “it’s badly going to affect our future in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Political Row

Voicing Shah’s concern, Panthers Party’s Harsh Dev Singh termed the new domicile rules as gross betrayal with J&K youth.

“Unlike the 371 protected states like Arunachal Pradesh where domicile rules are very tough, the BJP-led central government has made the domicile certificate a cakewalk for outsiders in Jammu and Kashmir. The way gates have been thrown open for the rest of the country is a big betrayal with people of J&K.”

Singh who earlier protested against the domicile notification wherein only class 4th jobs were kept reserved for J&K youth demanded revocation of the law.

“Panthers Party won’t accept any kind of betrayal with the youth of J&K,” Singh said. “The youth are very angry right now, and they’re waiting for this lockdown to end. What happens next will solely be the responsibility of the government.”

Before Panthers Party, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led Hurriyat Conference accused BJP-led New Delhi government of speeding up new ordinances in the midst of a pandemic ‘to change demography of Jammu and Kashmir’.

“This order of the Union Territory government is illegal and unconstitutional and it is murder of democracy,” said Saiffudin Soz, a veteran politician whose party, Congress, said the domicile order will open floodgates for outsiders.

The domicile order as well as procedure, said National Conference, are anti-people.

“Not only because these are ambiguous and misleading opening flood gates but these would push people with valid state subject certificates to uncertainty and hardship as the benefits would not be available unless they obtain domicile certificates under the rules,” Kashmir’s grand old party said.

The timing of framing of these important rules is not only inappropriate but grossly unethical, JK Apni Party (JKAP) said. “There’s no popular, elected government in place in J&K wherein the legislature could have thoroughly discussed and deliberated upon eligibility criteria for availing domicile credentials.”

Mainland Indian Take

Kartik Bhatt, 53, a Rajkot-based architect while talking about the new law, said, “The intent of the new domicile is to restore normalcy.”

The government should invite other people for business and work for normal functioning of the region, he added.

Goutam Bhaduri, 62, a retired government employee from Kolkata has a different perspective on the matter.

“Reserving jobs for Kashmiri youth who have not been the beneficiary of any government scholarship scheme or had the means to go outside of Kashmir for higher studies, for political and financial reasons, will be benefited from this amended new rule,” Bhaduri said.

“I hope,” he continued, “this further encourages government to further invest in the regional universities, giving the aspirational Kashmiri youth a good reason to stay.”

While many people see this as an attack on natives of the region, Zafar Iqbal, advocate at Gauhati High Court, cites Clause 6 of the Assam Accord which protects and preserves its indigenous people.

“This might sound good to the rest of the country as everyone will be able to buy land and in turn flourish the economy,” Iqbal said. “But the state of J&K and its people will be alienated from their land.”

If other states have provisions to protect its people, the advocate asked, “then why people of J&K are deprived of such rights which had been guaranteed by the constitution.”

Many see this move as opening of the door for Kashmiri Pandits’ return to the Valley.

Aayush Razdan, an IT professional from Jammu, said, “Yes, people from Jammu region and Kashmir region fear that there will be a change in demography of the state, but I don’t think the culture of place will get negatively affected by this new law.”

As per the new notification, others who can be deemed to be a domicile include the children of those central government officials, all-India services officers, officials of PSU and autonomous bodies of the central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, central university officials and those of recognised research institutes of the central government, who have served in J&K for 10 years.

An army official from Goa, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The implementation has to be done properly; otherwise, it may not go in favour of Kashmiris.”

Many Indians believe that the law will also lead to an inter-cultural collaboration between the states.

“It’s a good move, if few tweaks are sorted,” Aashray from Lucknow believes. “Kashmiris will get a new outlook.”

Growing Concerns

However, most Kashmiris are not buying these arguments.

Many see the law as an onslaught on their identity and culture.

“This move will add to the existing woes of unemployment,” said Tahira Nazeer, a resident of Anantnag.

And the way Tehsildar, the domicile-issuing authority, has been directed to issue the certificate within seven days or pay Rs 50,000 as penalty from his own salary makes many believe that the move is beyond ‘normal’.

“It’s like putting a knife on Tehsildar’s throat,” says Basit Sultan, a post-graduate student from Baramulla. “Even if he wants to resist changes or reject cases, he won’t do it now for the obvious reasons.”

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