Jammu and Kashmir political parties reject new domicile law

The notification for the new law was issued by the home ministry on Tuesday

jammu-kashmir-curfew [File] The new law in Jammu and Kashmir was issued by the ministry of home affairs | PTI

Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have rejected the new J&K domicile law announced by the Centre and asked the government to roll it back and focus on the fight against coronavirus.

The notification for the new law was issued by the ministry of home affairs on Tuesday through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020, paving the way for thousands of Central government employees, especially, those in the armed forces with 15 years of residency in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the new law, anyone who has resided in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years or has studied here for seven years, and appeared in the Class 10 or Class 12 examination, will be eligible for domicile certificates. This would allow them to apply for gazetted and non-gazetted government jobs. 

Migrants registered by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner have been exempted from fulfilling the amended requirements.

The children of Central government employees, all India services, public sector undertakings, public sector banks, statutory bodies, Central universities and recognised research institutes of the Central government who have served in J&K for 10 years will also be eligible to apply for gazetted and non-gazetted government jobs in the UT.

The new rules have also been extended to children of those who fulfil the above mentioned criteria even if they do not live in Jammu and Kashmir. 

The new rules state that no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post in a pay scale of not more than Level-4 (Rs 25500) unless he is a domicile of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Level 4 includes the post of junior assistant and constable, which is considered as the lowest category of non-gazetted posts.

This means all Indian citizens are eligible for positions below Level 4 in Jammu and Kashmir.

The new law has empowered tehsildars within their territorial jurisdiction to issue domicile certificates to eligible persons.

The government of Jammu & Kashmir is authorised to notify any other officer to be a Competent Authority for issuance of a domicile certificate.

The law is a major departure from the earlier law (Article 35A) that empowered the assembly to define a permanent resident (now replaced by a domicile) of Jammu & Kashmir. Only the permanent residents could apply for government jobs and own land here.

The law is likely to reinforce the apprehension that the Bharatiya Janata Party was trying to engineer a demographic change in the only Muslim majority territory in India.

“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,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter.

In another tweet, he added: “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 #JK domicile law”.

In a detailed statement, National Conference chief spokesman Aga Syed Mehdi called the new law a “cruel joke”.

“Only Class -IV jobs have been reserved for the original state subjects. What can be more demeaning than this?”

The statement said the clause of extending domicile to everyone and anyone who has lived in Jammu & Kashmir for the past 15 years raises concern about demography changes in the UT. 

“Even those, who have been posted as central government employees, PSUs, migrants in J&K can now enjoy their share of jobs, biting off a huge chunk from the share of the locals,” the statement said. “How cruel the law is for the people of J&K, when it paves the way for a person, from anywhere in India, having studied here for seven years or so, to claim domicile? Is it possible for a student studying in other States to have a similar stake there?”

He said the fact that a tehsildar level officer has been empowered to dole out domicile certificates leaves no mechanism to ensure verification of the claims of domicile and thus, there is every scope of the law bringing in new entrants.

“All across the country people who lived 70 years of their lives in the country are being asked to prove their claim over citizenship but here anyone with a 10-15 year stay is eligible for a domicile certificate,” he said.

He said when the country is battling with COVID19, and people of J&K and their representatives are worried about their lives and of their families, government of India brings in the law.

The newly floated Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari said that the order reflects a casual exercise carried out at bureaucratic level without taking aspirations and expectations of people into consideration. Bukhari, in a statement, stressed on moving beyond Article 370 and working with the Centre for development of Jammu and Kashmir.

The statement said the order be put in abeyance till the country is out of dangers arising out of COVID-19 deadly disease. “This Order in its entirety is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of Jammu and Kashmir who genuinely believed that post October 31, 2019 their rights and privileges in the matter of employment and other rights would remain as it had been,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) termed the law as “frighteningly ambivalent, irresolute  and akin to rubbing salt to the peoples wounds”.

PDP General Secretary and former MLC Surinder Choudhary termed the law as “ill-timed, very badly drafted and outcome of confused and chaotic bureaucracy”.

Demanding immediate roll-back of the law, Choudhary said the government of India should prioritise all its efforts in containing the spread of COVID-19 in the country as well as in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We want the government to save the precious lives from the virus which is out to swallow the entire human race. When world is battling the coronavirus pandemic, it is deeply perturbing that some in the corridors of power are playing mind games with the perturbed people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been battling odd times since decades,” he said.

The BJP, on August 5, 2019, revoked the limited autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and downgraded its status to UT.

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines