The new domicile law has become a source of great contention and unease in Indian occupied Kashmir, including even in Jammu province, the stronghold of the BJP in the territory.
The law has entitled citizenship to any person who has resided in IOK for fifteen years. The rule has been relaxed for the central government employees who must have served in the territory for ten years for them as also their children to qualify for citizenship. 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”.
What is more it is now a tehsildar, as against a district magistrate earlier, who will be competent to issue a domicile certificate within his territorial jurisdiction.
The order has replaced the term permanent residents with ‘domiciles’, which means any person who has stayed in the region for 15 years.
This had triggered backlash not only in Kashmir but also in Jammu, the BJP’s core constituency in the territory. Leader of a major Jammu based political outfit Panthers Party’s Harshdev Singh had staged a solo protest against the law, so had other opposition leaders from the region including those of the newly floated Apni Party.
Besides, the social media threads from the region showed a deep resentment against the domicile law, particularly about the rule on jobs. This forced the BJP leadership in New Delhi to review the order in regard to jobs.
But the rest of the domicile law remains intact. Anyone who has resided in Kashmir for 15 years will become a domicile in the territory. The provision is easier for the already serving central government officials, their children and the students. This is feared to throw the territory open to settlement by outsiders. Hence the deep unease in the territory, more so, in Kashmir Valley, where people apprehend that the domicile law is geared to change the demography of the region.
However, what matters to the BJP is how Jammu sees the order. The people there were greatly upset over the jobs clause. But now that it has been addressed, the BJP would be keen to know the opinion of the people in Jammu about the rest of the law.
Some people from the province have already taken to Twitter to vent their frustration at the new law.
“This new domicile law is making me feel like we people of Jammu and Kashmir are screwed, we are literally screwed,” tweeted one Shivani Sharma.
Jiya Sethi another in a tweet said that Thank you PM of India for deceiving us the natives of Jammu and Kashmir. We’ve given our all for this state and in return what we got? The best return gift. Folded hands #domicilelaw.
Jammu is very important for the BJP. The party can only have a say in the local politics or be able to rule J&K if it sweeps Jammu. But domicile law and its far-reaching demographic and social implications for Jammu is expected to erode the party’s support base in the province.