Experts on Kashmir say that with the new domicile laws, India is imposing a “settler-colonial project” in occupied Kashmir mirroring Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
Najeeb Mubarki, a Kashmir-based journalist said that Indian state functionaries themselves had spoken of this well-thought-out Israeli-style solution for occupied Kashmir. It is certainly a settler colonialism project with tragic consequences for Kashmiris, he said.
“The Indian government has taken a page from Israel to usurp Kashmiri territories and deny its citizens their right to self-determination. It’s another settler colonialist project that will fail miserably as long as Kashmiris resist and the world stands up to it,” he maintained.
“Of course, this doesn’t mean the contested, disputed nature of Kashmir is over, but the Indian state seems certain that demographic changes and creating Israeli-style ‘facts on the ground’ is its ‘final solution’,” he added.
Khurram Parvez, a noted human rights activist in the occupied territory, said by virtue of India’s domicile law, outsiders are also going to be the claimants of already existing jobs, which worsens an already huge unemployment problem. “This is an act against the interests of unemployed youth. Those outsiders who get jobs due to this order will also claim the right to purchase land in Kashmir,” he said.
Parvez Imroz said another amended law will grant any slum dweller a house in the territory “which is certainly something which can lead to [illegal] settlements”.
A Palestinian affairs expert and Director of the Istanbul-based Centre for Islam and Global Affairs, Sami Al-Arian, in an interview said it is a blatant attempt to colonise Kashmir and populate it with new and old colonisers to make Kashmir’s indigenous citizens a minority in their own land. “The racist and unjust laws India has been enacting lately are similar to the racist laws and practices Israel has been applying in Palestine for decades,” he said.
Observers say changes in the domicile law may also disenfranchise thousands of non-resident Kashmiri Muslims, as well as tens of thousands of Muslims who were exiled from the region since 1947 to Pakistan and elsewhere.
Hafsa Kanjwal, a historian who teaches at Pennsylvania’s Lafayette College, said the law lends itself to “settler colonialism in Kashmir”. “This is just the beginning. Now that more Indian businesses and corporations are able to operate in Kashmir, the number of those who will claim domicile will steadily increase,” she said.
Kanjwal added that India’s plan of demographic change in occupied Kashmir begins “with a change in certain laws, instead of a more widespread ethnic cleansing, which could potentially render international condemnation”.
India recently held guided tours of foreign envoys to occupied Kashmir after illegally annexing it. That move was accompanied by a harsh crackdown, a sweeping curfew, and thousands of arrests.
Critics accuse right-wing Narendra Modi-led ruling BJP of undermining India’s secular constitution by passing a slew of measures against the country’s minority Muslim population.
While India illegally annexed occupied Kashmir in August, the Indian Supreme Court allowed a Hindu temple to be built in Ayodhya city, where Hindu militants of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other groups razed a 400-year-old Babri mosque in 1992.
In December, India passed a new citizenship law, dubbed “anti-Muslim”, that fast-tracks naturalisation for some religious minorities from neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.
Right-wing groups have also targeted Indian Muslims for praying in open parks or roadsides. Recently about 50 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in religious riots when US President Donald Trump visited the capital, New Delhi.
The new domicile law in Kashmir may offer desperate Indian Muslims a chance to reside in Muslim-majority Kashmir. But local Kashmiris say that Indian Muslims are too poor and marginalised to try to take advantage of the new order.
“These domicile laws have been devised only to facilitate a non-Muslim Indian influx into Kashmir,” a Kashmir-based political analyst said, on the condition of anonymity.
“Indian Muslims are poor. They don’t have resources to buy properties in Kashmir. In Kashmir, businesses are not running. Any Indian who does not have the state financial and military muscle behind him can’t sustain in a conflict zone like Kashmir. Indian Muslims would never get any such support from the ruling government,” he added.