PM Imran approaches UNSG, world leaders over issuance of Kashmiri domiciles to Indian citizens

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday termed India’s issuance of 25,000 domiciles to Indian nationals in occupied Kashmir “illegal” and said that he has approached United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres over the matter.

In a tweet, the premier said that he would also reach out to other world leaders to stop India from going further on an “unacceptable path that further usurps the legal and internationally guaranteed rights of the Kashmiri people”.

He cautioned that such a move would “seriously imperil peace and security in South Asia”.

“First, India’s attempt at illegal annexation of IOJK and now its attempts to alter IOJK’s demographic structure incl[uding] by issuance of domicile certificates to 25,000 Indian nationals are all illegal, in violation of UNSC resolutions & international law, incl[uding] 4th Geneva Convention,” he wrote.

As many as 25,000 non-locals have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority occupied Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of a move to disturb the demographic profile of the region, according to a report from Anadolu Agency.

The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which until last year were reserved only for the local population.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz also urged the UN and the international community to take “immediate action” to stop India from changing the demography and distinct identity of occupied Kashmir, Radio Pakistan reported.

Faraz said that the “Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), 2020” was “clearly aimed at changing the demographic structure of Kashmir” and undermined the rights of the valley’s people to self-determination.

He added that he, along with the prime minister, would continue to highlight the plight of the Kashmiris on all international forums until the “realisation of their inalienable right to self-determination in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions”.

The minister further alleged that India was “pursuing its expansionist designs” under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic.

New law notified amid Covid-19 lockdown
When India revoked the semi-autonomous status of occupied Kashmir last year, it also scrapped the local special citizenship law, guaranteed under Article 35-A of the Indian constitution. The law barred outsiders from settling and claiming government jobs, to maintain the demographic balance of the region.

Earlier this month, a picture of the domicile certificate issued to Navin Kumar Choudhary, a bureaucrat originally from the Indian state of Bihar, went viral on social media.

In April, amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the Indian government notified domicile laws for occupied Kashmir, making an unspecified number of outsiders eligible for residency and jobs.

According to the new law, any person who has lived in the region for 15 years, or has studied there for seven years and passed their class 10 or class 12 examination is eligible for the domicile.

Also eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights are the children of Indian government employees who have served in the region for 10 years or more.

Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim-majority character of the region.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity, a government official said as many as 33,000 people had applied for the domicile certificates since May 18, when the rules were notified. Of them, 25,000 have been granted citizenship rights, he added.

Some 32,000 applications were filed in the 10 districts of Hindu-majority Jammu.

In the Kashmir region, which is about 96.4 per cent Muslim, 435 certificates have been issued so far, out of a total 720 applications.