Ajaz Ahmad War
Despite Kashmiris opposing in unison a series of domicile laws slapped upon them as a chronology to the August 5 abrogation of articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, BJP regime is relentlessly following its Hindutva agenda.
Even the pro-India political parties in Jammu and Kashmir including Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party, which is seen as a BJP proxy in Kashmir, has voiced opposition to the domicile law. Meanwhile, domicile certificates have been issued to thousands of individuals (non-locals) that would allow the entry of nonresidents – as per Article 35A – into the state. This is surely going to precipitate the crisis further.
The new law replaces ‘permanent resident’ (based on the 1927 notification) with ‘domicile,’ extending eligibility to persons who have resided in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years, or have studied for a period of seven years, or appeared in Class 10 or Class 12 exams, and refugees from West Pakistan – mostly Hindus who have migrated from Pakistan – registered as migrants by the Relief and Rehabilitation (R&R) Commission-Migrants. The law also includes punitive action in case the domicile certificate is not issued within a period of seven working days – a recovery of Rs 50,000 from the salary of the competent authority (tehsildar or R & R Commission-Migrants).
As per a recent report by the Indo Pak Conflict Monitor, the reading down of Article 370 has emboldened the longstanding conflict in the region and the situation of Kashmir’s security has gradually worsened, raising a question mark over the Union government’s non-consultative and hard-line Kashmir policy.
The domicile laws are surely going to aggravate the conflict further and take it to a point where it can go totally out of hand. There are over seven lakh migrant labourers residing in the Valley as of now. There are lacs of military and paramilitary personnel deployed in Kashmir, some reports pitting the number at one million. As per recent reports, the government is opening up a 6,000-acre land bank to woo major corporate houses and traders to make investments.
Human rights activists and Kashmir observers have shown great concern over how New Delhi is exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to hurry through its demography agenda in the state. In a recent Time magazine article, noted Kashmiri human rights activist wrote: “Kashmir was under a lockdown long before COVID-19. For weeks last year, all phone lines and internet services were cut off by the Indian government. Basic mobile-phone connectivity took months to be restored and a ban on high-speed 4G internet continues till this day. Still, India’s government has made full use of coronavirus lockdowns by passing the domicile rule, which has caused alarm because of its potential to change the demography of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. The measure grants a right to residency and government jobs to anyone from India who has lived in the state for 15 years or more, studied there for seven years and taken certain exams, or served in its’ state government for 10 years or more. In just more than a month, around 400,000 people have already acquired domicile certificates. It could alter the results of any referendum seeking peoples’ opinion for the resolution of the larger, international dispute over control of the territory.”
J&K remains a melting pot, a geopolitical hotspot involving three nuclear powers. Its potential to spiral into a massive conflagration cannot be and should not be understated or undermined. So it becomes imperative for the BJP regime to show some wisdom and restraint and not allow the situation to go beyond the tipping point which is approaching quite rapidly. It become all the more imperative for the global powers to impress upon India and bring to a halt the Hindutva juggernaut that’s ruthlessly trampling upon history, geography, aspirations and the rights of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.