Changing the Domicile in Jammu and Kashmir
BJP’s long-term plan to colonise Kashmir?
7 Apr 2020
That the Modi Government will bring in a law altering the definition of resident or domicile in Jammu and Kashmir was a foregone conclusion. During his election campaign in 2019, Modi had promised to abrogate Article 370. The RSS could not live with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a Muslim majority region and that its Muslim majority status was protected by law, i.e. Article 370 and its section 35 A. The fact that it waited nearly eight months to make this change is surprising. Presumably, the country wide agitation caused by the enactment of CAA and the proposed NPR and NRC had made them pause. Now that the country is in a lockdown, thanks to the dreaded Corona Virus, people are in quarantine and police are out there to ensure no one can come out to protest, it has brought in the new law.
As Prof. Siddiq Wahid, former Vice Chancellor of J&K Islamic University said, “I think it illustrates clearly that some will not stop from politicking during coronavirus.” All political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have opposed the new domicile law. Civil society groups have condemned it. Retired Air vice Marshal Kapil Kak, who has challenged the abrogation of Article 370 in the Supreme Court, told Al Jazeera ” (it is) a permanent resident by stealth”. “It should worry the Kashmiris … The effect of this notification would be felt in [the] Jammu [region] because there are not many people who have come into Kashmir in the last 15 years.”
Even the BJP blessed, J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari, said, “This order in its entirety is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of J&K who genuinely believed that post October 31, 2019, their rights and privileges in the matter of employment and other rights would remain as it had been.” And speaking about double speak and lies, on March 15, 2020, when a group of Kashmiri political leaders had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, on the issue of domicile in statehood, both of them had issued statements later, reiterating their commitment to protecting rights of J&K people.
According to the new law all those who have lived in J&K for 15 years, as well as those who studied there for at least seven years and appeared for Class 10 and 12 exams from an educational institution in Jammu and Kashmir will be recognised as a domicile. The new law has expanded the definition to include “children of those central government officials, all India services officers, officials of Public Sector Undertakings children of Central government employees, PSUs and autonomous body of central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central universities and recognised research institutes of central government who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a total period of ten years or children of parents who fulfil any of the conditions…” Under this law, now the “Tehsildar” has been given the power to issue domicile certificate. Earlier it was the Deputy Commissioner who was empowered.
However, Jammu and Kashmir is not the only state where special laws meant for preserving the identity are in force. Nagaland has Article 371A and outsiders need a special permit to enter the state. Similarly, the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh has a domicile law which prevents outsiders to purchase land there. Himachal Pradesh is ruled by the BJP and Nagaland’s government is supported by BJP. Yet, when it comes to implement the one India slogan in letter and spirit, states like Nagaland and Himachal are forgotten.
Until now, state government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir were reserved for the permanent residents of the state as defined in section 6 of the J&K Constitution. The J&K Constitution has been repealed. Through the new law, the Centre has repealed the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Special Provisions Act. Initially only Class IV category of government jobs, such as junior assistants and peons, have been reserved for residents, or domiciles, of J&K with pay up to Rupees. 25,500 per month. All other category of government jobs, including judicial services were opened to people from all over the country.
However, after the law was criticised by almost all J&K political parties and social organisations, including supporters of BJP in Jammu and the newly formed Kashmiri political party which was blessed by the BJP, the government on April 3, decided modify the order. Now all jobs under the J K Administration are reserved only for those certified as domiciled in Jammu and Kashmir. The press conference addressed by the IGP of Kashmir, threatening to, “arrest those instigating people against the new domicile law” shows that despite the lockdown, people of J&K were giving expression to their anger and opposition to this sneaky mid-night move of the Central government to take away the protection of “State Subjects”. According to the IGP of J&K, posting messages opposing the new domicile law is misuse of social media and punishable under the orders of the government. Clearly, in Jammu and Kashmir, the people do not have any rights, and criticism of the government is illegal. Mr. Bukhari, the leader of J&K Apni Party changed his tune after the Central government modified the rules and extended reservation to all categories and classes of jobs.
The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the state. Now this law has been created to provide the modalities to settle many categories of Indians in Jammu and Kashmir. As Siddiq Wahid said, “it is an attempt to change the demographics, not only change but flood it. It will lead to demographic flooding.” The abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A in August 2019 and the changing of the domicile law is the other side of the strikes across the border after Pulwama massacre. It is a direct assault on the people of Jammu and Kashmir, for what the BJP calls internal rectification required for “full and complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India.”
The State Subject Law, which was enacted in 1927 by Maharaja Hari Singh is an integral part of Kashmiri people’s struggle for equality and democratic rights. The State Subject movement had a distinctive feature of its own as it amalgamated both the regions on this issue i.e. Jammu under Dogra Sadr Sabha and Kashmir under Pandits. One of the annual conference of Dogra Sadr Sabha held at Srinagar on October 1926 in which Pandit Jia Lal Kilam moved a resolution, demanding that only those persons whose ancestors had been residing in the state since the time of Maharaja Gulab Singh should be considered as the hereditary State Subjects and be given preferential treatment in the state-services to such persons. Finally, the issue came up again towards the beginning of the Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime. The Maharaja appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Major General Janak Singh, the then revenue minister, to define the term. The commission comprised officials and non-officials including the natives and the outsiders. The constitution of the State-Subject Definition Committee was broad based and the representation was given to all the sections of the population of the state including the Kashmiris, the Dogra and the Punjabis. The definition of state subject and law was framed in 1927 under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. It was the Kashmiri Pandits who had played an important role in getting the legislation framed as the issue was largely irrelevant to Kashmiri Muslims, who were shut out of the employment pool almost entirely, due to their comparative socio-economic disadvantage and the communal nature of Dogra rule.
The worst feature of the Dogra rule was its communal outlook. It discriminated against the Muslims on the basis of their religion and also interfered in their religious affairs. The Dogra State was actually a Hindu State and its rulers tried their best to broaden its Hindu nature. As a result Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu community of the valley, were associated with it and the Muslims were marginalised. In the field of education, Kashmir was lagging behind in the whole subcontinent. Though modern education began in Kashmir in 1880, but it was the Kashmiri Pandits who took advantage of it. The Pandits were advanced in education because of the facilities provided by the Government which were not provided to the Muslims. As the Muslims were mostly uneducated, they were not employed in the state’s public service.
With the turn of the century the Muslims became conscious and started thinking about their community. They sent petitions and requested the Government to establish the schools in their areas, but were turned down. Muslims outside the state also highlighted the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and supported them through their organisations, press and other means. Under pressure of growing public opinion, Maharaja Pratap Singh, in 1916 invited Sir Henry Sharp, the Educational Commissioner, and Government of India, to examine the educational system in Kashmir and to advise the future policy, and also to recommend the development of education of the Muslims. Mr. Sharp recommended the expansion of the primary schools, scholarships for the Muslims. Though Pratap Singh accepted these recommendations, his Hindu officials ignored these recommendations as they did not want Muslims to be appointed in the State services, which they considered their monopoly.
In 1920, the silk factory workers struck work to call for a pay raise. Four years later, they launched an even bigger agitation due to poor working conditions. The Reading Room Party from Srinagar agitated for improved education facilities and more administrative work opportunities for Muslims. In July 1931 Kashmir’s Muslims launched their first massive protest against the unfair Hindu administration of Dogra regime. On July 13, 1931, several Kashmiri Muslims protesting the arrest of Abdul Qayyum, had taken out a procession demanding his release. To counter the spreading rebellion of Kashmiri masses, Maharaja Hari Singh passed an Ordinance which empowered troops to enforce brutal laws. Through this draconian Ordinance the city was handed over to the military and civil administration was suspended. The Rajput soldiers of Maharaja took full benefit of the Ordinance Raj over the days. The Ordinance gave troops a free hand. Soldiers entered homes, looted and raped the women. Several cases of rape were reported to Middleton, Enquiry Officer of Riots Enquiry Commission. Shopkeepers were asked to open their shops, and when they did it, they were arrested. In their absence the shops were plundered. People were forced to salute the military officers in the streets of the town.
On October 5, 1931, during the celebration of his birthday, Hari Singh asserted “I believe I am voicing the general feeling when I say that we are deeply grateful to the troops for their devotion to duty and self-restraint they have shown in maintaining the public peace and authority of law during last three months.” (The same praise is often heaped on Indian security forces, by India’s mainstream political parties, despite their horrible human rights record.) The protests gained momentum after the killings and Maharajah Hari Singh was forced to institute the Glancy Commission to inquire into the Muslim complaints.
The Glancy Commission found that in 1930 in the state’s bureaucracy, Hindus and Sikhs held 78 per cent of gazetted appointments compared to the Muslims who held only 22 percent of the jobs. The Glancy Commission submitted its report to the Maharaja on March 22, 1932.The Hindus felt that its recommendations were not in the interests their community. They started a movement against the recommendations of the Glancy Commission called “Bread Movement” asking the Maharaja not to employ Muslims in large numbers in the government. The divide between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmir Muslims can be traced back to this movement of Kashmir Pandits, when instead of supporting their Muslim brethren, they opposed them. This was the time, when Kashmir witnessed its first communal violence and communal killing
In 1930, the Kashmiri Muslim had only 22 percent of the gazetted jobs. Let us look at the community wise distribution of jobs in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s, sixty years after Glancy Commission’s recommendations. As on July 1, 1987, in J & K, nearly 57 percent of Gazetted jobs were held by Hindus and Sikhs, while the Kashmir Muslims held 41.71 percent of these positions. About one third of all persons employed in state owned corporations, undertakings, autonomous bodies and banks in J&K were Hindus. When we look at the community wise breakdown of employment in Central government establishments in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, we see that in the “Officer”, Hindu employees constituted about 83 percent while only about 6 percent of the “Officers” were Muslim. Considering that Hindus and Sikhs together constituted about 36.5 percent and the Muslims comprised of 64.15 of the population of J & K (1990/91), it clearly shows that the Kashmiri Muslim never enjoyed a monopoly over jobs in the government of J & K, even under the rule of the Abdullahs. (India’s Kashmir War, Tapan Bose, Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha Sumanta Bannerjee; Economic & Political Weekly, March 31, 1990)
A document, which according to a government official, provided the rationale for the removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir was published by the Hindu on August 5, 2019. The document clearly spells out BJP’s reasons and objective for removal of Article 370 and 35 A. It says, “There exists an unnecessary chasm between citizens of Kashmir and the rest of India.” The document also claims that, “… (in) Kashmir the positive discrimination has tended to be insidious. … If Indians (non-Kashmiris) cannot invest in land or property, how can manufacturing firms or multinational corporations? The moves might have provided jobs to the young people of Kashmir. It also stopped public colleges such as medical colleges from adequately fulfilling vacancies. Professors cannot be hired from outside the State except in extremely low quotas. These and many more ensure that unemployment increases, which make the advent of radicalization, more viable. Hence, Article 370, the pernicious basis of Article 35-A must go.”
The Afghan rule in Kashmir which continued for 67 years was probably the worst ever seen by the inhabitants of the valley. The stories of brutalities of the Afghan rulers make people shudder even now. Kakkar Khan, a man with flowing white beard was thought to be pious man. He was appointed Governor of Kashmir. As Kakkar Khan’s entourage reached Baramulla a funeral was passing by. The governor asked them to stop. Kashmiris were happy thinking the pious man is going to offer fateh to the departed soul. On the contrary he asked them to open the coffin and bit the ear of the deceased and shouted, “Tell the dead in the next world that Kakkar Khan has arrived in Kashmir!”