Srinagar: The central government's new domicile law for the newly created union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has drawn harsh criticism from regional political leadership including its allies, who have questioned the law and the time of its introduction during a severe global health crisis.
According to the government notification released on Tuesday, March 31, jobs up to the lowest level of non-gazetted rank have been exclusively reserved for those who have resided in J&K for a period of 15 years, and children of all central government employees who have served for a 10-year period in the newly created union territory.
The rules state that students who have studied here for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th and 12th examination in an educational institution located in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir or people who are registered as migrant by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) in the region will also be deemed as domicile of the Union Territory.
"Children of those central government officials, all India services officers, officials of public sector undertaking 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," the notification reads.
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The section 5A of The Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act states that the subject to the provisions of this Act, no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level-4 (25500) unless he is a domicile of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The level 4 includes posts like junior assistants and constables, considered as the junior-most category of non-gazetted posts.
The domiciles of J&K UT will now have exclusive right over class 4 and non-gazetted posts to be advertised by the Services Selection Board and for the remaining non-gazetted and gazetted posts, all Indian citizens would be eligible.
The new law has rested the authority for the issuance of domicile certificates to revenue officials Tehsildars in the region. "Any person aggrieved by the order of the Competent Authority may file appeal before the concerned Deputy Commissioner who shall decide appeal, providing an opportunity of being heard to the parties, within a period of sixty days," the notification reads. The gazette notification has revoked 29 state laws and amended 109 laws including the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA).
Earlier, the residents of Jammu and Kashmir defined as state subjects were alone eligible for reserving the rights over jobs and immovable property under Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution and safeguarded by Article 370. The abrogation of both laws in August last year, which was followed by a months-long severe clampdown in the region, has changed that. The change comes at a time when entire region is under a strict lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Locals in the region have expressed fear and apprehension that the abrogation of "special status" is a step towards a demographic change in Kashmir on the lines of Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, something the Government of India denies.
Politicians Refer to New Rules as Insult to People
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who was released from detention earlier last week after nearly eight months referred to the law as "insult" and even questioned the timing of its introduction i.e. amidst a global crisis in two successive tweets.
"Talk about suspect timing. At a time when all our efforts & attention should be focused on the #COVID outbreak the government slips in a new domicile law for J&K. Insult is heaped on injury when we see the law offers none of the protections that had been promised," Omar tweeted.
In another tweet, he wrote, "You can imagine how hollow the domicile law is from the fact that even the new party created with Delhi’s blessings, whose leaders were lobbying in Delhi for this law, have been forced to criticise the #JKdomicilelaw (sic)."
Omar was referring to the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) led by businessman-politician Altaf Bukhari which many in Omar's National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party see as an extension of BJP.
JKAP called the new law an ‘ill timed and causal attempt’ by the government of India. Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Wednesday in a media statement demanded that the order be put in abeyance till the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“It is most unfortunate that such an important order has been issued at a time when the whole country is battling for its survival and is under strict lockdown to stem spread of deadly Coronavirus disease. While JKAP had been vehemently demanding Domicile Rights on land and jobs for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the order issued by the union government reflects a casual exercise carried out at bureaucratic level without taking aspirations and expectations of people into consideration,” Bukhari said. Bukhari added that the order issued is totally unacceptable to the party.
Congress party leader Ravinder Sharma, who is also the party spokesperson, said that the order is merely an "eyewash" and rejects the domicile order.
"It has fallen short of the expectations. This is outrightly a betrayal. Instead of providing job guarantees and protection, they have paved way for the non-residents to take away our jobs. They have deliberately chosen this time, so that people can’t come out and protest or show their resentment. But people are not dumb. They understand their machinations now. We totally reject this domicile order which is against the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Sharma told NewsClick.
Formerly an ally of BJP, Sajad Lone led Jammu and Kashmir People's conference (JKPC) said the definition of "new domicile law is humiliating and insulting."
"The government of the day has embarked on an erroneous path and seems to be in no mood to rectify wrongs and instead is content to be deluded in the world of “we know the best” for J&K and its people," party spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu said in a statement.
"Too little and too dicey. It strengthens our belief that nothing can replace the constitutional and legal provisions existing for Jammu and Kashmir prior to August 4. It is another chapter of humiliation and deceit for all those who thought Delhi will be taking the sentiments of people into consideration. For BJP, the red book of RSS is the only commitment," said former MLC and PDP leader Firdous Tak.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh hinted that a domicile law for Kashmir will be followed by a land act to address the issues of unemployment and fear of demographic change by locals.