Navin Kumar Choudhary, became the first IAS officer who has been granted the domicile certificate to be the resident of J&K. Image Courtesy: Kashmir Pulse
After a domicile certificate was issued to a senior civil servant from Bihar, a sense of fear has crept into the minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). While Kashmir lamented a purported demographic change, Jammu believed it was taken for a ride by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
On June 26, Navin Kumar Choudhary, a senior IAS officer, became the first bureaucrat, among 25,000 “non-residents”, who were granted a domicile certificate. It was done under the new domicile laws which came in following the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year.
Choudhary has spent most of his life serving as a J&K cadre since the 90s. The domicile certificate issued to the senior officer by the Tehsildar, Rohit Sharma, read: “This is to certify that Shri Navin K. Choudhary, son of Shri Deokant Choudhary, resident of at present Gandhi Nagar, Jammu is a domicile of UT of J&K.(sic)”
The new domicile law came into the picture after the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, which gave special status to the erstwhile state by prohibiting outsiders from buying land, and in reserving jobs for residents of J&K.
Under the new domicile law, non-residents who have resided in J&K for a period of 15 years, or have studied there for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10 or Class 12 examinations in an educational institute in J&K, will be regarded as domiciles.
According to reports, 33,157 domicile applications have been received by the government, of which 25,000 people have been granted citizenship. Around 32,000 applications have been received for 10 districts of Jammu while there were only 720 applicants for Kashmir.
The news have evoked strong criticism from locals and regional political parties alike.
In Jammu, as it appears, many felt betrayed by the ruling party.
Vikramjeet Manhas, a resident of Jammu, now regrets voting for the BJP. He said that the youth of Jammu will lose jobs to the new domiciles. “Unemployment is already peaking in J&K and with new domiciles, we will lose the remaining jobs and seats in education as well,” he added.
Manhas said that Jammu voted for the BJP because the party promised employment and development. “We have been deceived. I regret voting for BJP,” he said.
Hakim Singh, who hails from Kishtwar district in Jammu, pointed out the disparity in the division chosen by eligible domiciles. “The majority of people who are eligible for a domicile certificate have opted for Jammu instead of Kashmir. It proves that the government’s aim is to settle non-residents. As we can see issues of militancy, terrorism, unemployment, development and corruption have taken a back seat,” he added.
Sourav Sarmal, from Samba district in Jammu, said that the majority of people from Jammu division have always been against the Domicile Law. “The government of India and the media said that Jammu is in favour of the domicile law, but the majority of people were against it. We have been failed by a biased media which never gave space to the true opinion of Jammu,” he said.
Kashmir, however, sees the domicile certificate as a tool to alter the demography of the region by facilitating non-residents.
“We will witness a cultural dilution as part of the demographic change. The structure of law is also vague as well. Who will validate and verify how long a person has stayed in Kashmir? Procuring school certificates is not rocket science. So, the government’s intentions are quite clear. Demographic change is the driving agenda behind this,” said Khalid Peerzada from Kashmir.
Aamir said he fears about the existence of Kashmiris. “The speed with which the BJP is working towards decimating our identity, I fear that after 20 years one will not find Kashmiris in Kashmir,” he added.
Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and four-time MLA from Kulgam, said the Domicile Law is part of an old RSS project.
“The BJP government want to reshape Jammu and Kashmir and for that, the RSS has been consistent in trying to project the present demography as a problem, there by, suggesting changes. This has been their agenda since Syama Prasad Mukherjee. Domicile is essentially the first step in that process. Whatever is being done is done without discussions or taking any population of the erstwhile state into confidence,” he said.
Tarigami added that if one revisits history, it was Jammu and primarily non-Muslims – the Kashmiri Pandits and the people of Jammu – who raised the issue of a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC).
Speaking to NewsClick, Iltija Mufti, daughter of former CM Mehbooba Mufti said: “It is a part of colonial settler project that the GOI wants to implement, seeking to change the demography of J&K, dilute its culture and obliterate our identity.”
Calling it “anti-people”, the National Conference opposed the Domicile certificates saying that the “measure was aimed at disempowering the PRC holders politically and economically.”