As many as 25,000 people have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of disturbing demographic profile of the region. The awarding of domicile certificates to majority Hindus in Occupied Kashmir will lead to sever demographic changes in the region, which is hitherto majority Muslim.
India issues 25,000 "domicile certificates" to non-locals in disputed Kashmir, effectively allowing them to permanently settle in the regionhttps://t.co/Gw2hGHpCOE
— TRT World (@trtworld) June 26, 2020
The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population
Constitutional amendment enables Occupied Kashmir demographic changes
Last year on Aug. 5, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of the region, it also scrapped the local special citizenship law, guaranteed under Article 35 (A) of the Indian Constitution.
The law was barring outsiders including Indian nationals from settling and claiming government jobs, to maintain the demographic balance.
On Friday, 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 this year, amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the government notified domicile laws 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 in the region for seven years and passed his class 10 or class 12 examination is eligible for domicile certificate.
Also, children of Indian government employees who have served in the state for 10 years are eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights. The law applies even if the children have never lived in Kashmir.
Out of 66, top bureaucrats serving in the region, 38 are outsiders belonging to other Indian states. Many other outsiders serve in various central government institutions like banks, post offices telecommunication facilities, security institutions, and universities.
Occupied Kashmir demographic changes: Muslims to suffer
Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim majority character of the region.
According to a census conducted by India in 2011, out of 12.5 million total population, Muslims comprise 68.31% and Hindus 28.43% in Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a government official said, since May 18, when the rules were notified, 33,000 persons had applied for the domicile certificates. Out of them, 25,000 persons have been granted citizenship rights, he said.
Read more: OIC wants halt to Kashmir abuse by India
As many as 32,000 applications were filed in 10 districts of the Hindu majority Jammu region. The highest number of 8,500 certificates has been issued in the Doda district, which has a delicate demographic balance, with Muslims comprising 53.81% and Hindus 45.76%.
As many as 6,213 domicile certificates have been issued in Rajouri district, which has 62.71% Muslim population. Authorities have distributed 6,123 citizenship certificates in Poonch, a border district comprising 90.44% Muslim population.
In the Kashmir region, which is about 96.4% Muslim population, 435 certificates have been issued so far, out of the total 720 applications.
As of now, it is not clear how many outsiders, like Choudhary, have been issued domicile certificates. The 25,000 new citizens also include Hindu refugees, who had settled in the region at the time of partition of the sub-continent in 1947. They had migrated from territories, now part of Pakistan. But due to the state’s residency laws and special status they were not granted local citizenship rights.
Kashmir: troubled paradise
The latest surge in violence in the disputed Himalayan valley this year has left over 100 suspected Kashmiri militants dead. Some 72 militants have been killed since the coronavirus pandemic emerged in the region on March 20.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China. Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.
Some 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died over the past 30 years in Indian-Occupied Kashmir, monitoring groups say.
Read more: India gives a shut up call to OIC on Kashmir
The fighting is between Indian soldiers – who number around 500,000 on the ground – and freedom fighters wanting either independence or union with Pakistan.
Clashes between security forces and militants – which often escalate as demonstrators gather – have been a near-daily occurrence since India launched “Operation All Out” after the death of charismatic freedom fighter Burhan Wani in 2016.
Also, in the Siachen Glacier region in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A ceasefire took effect in 2003. Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. According to several human rights groups, thousands have been killed in the conflict since 1989.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments bar below.