SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir authorities have issued as many as 12.5 lakh domicile certificates under a new law, the introduction of which earlier this year had raised fears of the beginning of demographic changes in predominantly Muslim (erstwhile) state.
However allaying these fears, a senior government official said here on Tuesday that the new domicile certificates were only for applying for jobs and do not confer rights to own land. “The new domicile certificate is for applying for jobs in J-K. It does not confer right to buy land,” Principal Secretary Revenue, Pawan Kotwal, told reporters. He also said that those holding domicile certificates would not be included in the voters’ list in the Union Territory either.
Earlier, government spokesman Rohit Kansal sought to clarify that 99 percent of new domicile certificates were issued to those residents of J&K who were already holding ‘state subject certificates’ under a 1927 law or (including) Kashmiri Pandit migrants. The old ‘state subject’ law was replaced by the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules, 2020, enacted in April this year, eight months after the state was stripped of its special status and split up into two Union Territories by the Centre.
Kansal who is J-K’s Principal Secretary Power Development and Information Departments said that among the new beneficiaries who were not permanent residents of the state include 11,398 refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan, 415 members of Valmiki Samaj (sweepers) and 10 of those belonging to Gorkha community besides 12, 340 registered migrants.
Asserting the government has accelerated the issuance of domicile certificates, he said, “The process of issuance of domicile certificates is picking up rapidly and certificate issuance is being monitored regularly”. He said, “About 12.5 lakh such certificates have been issued so far. Over 99 percent of those issued certificates include erstwhile Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs) or including Kashmiri Pandit migrants. The process of issuance will be further accelerated and the issuance will be monitored to ensure that pendency is brought down to the lowest.”
Kansal said that possessing domicile under the new law is the basic eligibility condition for appointment to any post under the UT of J-K following amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralization and Recruitment) Act, 2010. He, however, reassured on behalf of the government that the rules provide a simple and time bound procedure for the issuance of the domicile certificate “so that no one is put to any inconvenience, besides there are provisions for time bound issuance for certificates including an appellate authority whose orders will be binding as well as who has revisional powers”.
The spokesman added that the rules have a provision that applications for grant of domicile certificate can be submitted either physically or electronically online and that the competent authority can also issue domicile certificate(s) electronically. He said that the permanent residents of the erstwhile state of J-K in whose favour PCR has been issued by the competent authority before October 31, 2019 shall be eligible for receiving their domicile certificates on the basis of PRCs alone and no other additional document shall be required for such residents.
He said that similarly a “very simple procedure” has been formulated for Kashmiri migrants for they can get the domicile certificate on production of either a PRC or certificate of registration as migrant. “For bonafide migrants and bonafide displaced persons who have migrated but have not registered with the relief department, there is a special limited provision for registration,” he said. The government had last month issued orders making it obligatory on the competent authority to issue a domicile certificate within a period of five working days from the date such application is received by it.
The new domicile law is one of the many new laws the government has in unseemly haste introduced or altered many existing ones in J-K in the past one year, the enterprise to the dismay of vast sections of its population. While the government authorities insist the enactments are legally sanctioned and follow the pattern set by the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution ending the special status of the erstwhile state within the Indian Union, people here in and also in Jammu ask why not a single such or similar law has been introduced in Ladakh carved out of J-K as a separate Union Territory (UT) in August last year.
As no one in the government has attempted to answer this justifiable question so far, people tend to believe bringing in changes in J-K’s statute and the haste with which it is being done are “ill-intentioned”.
It is, however, mainly the new domicile law which has raised fears of the beginning of demographic changes in J-K. Reports pouring in mainly from Jammu planes say that thousands of non-locals have been granted domicile certificates during the past couple of months. They include some IAS officers and their family members besides refugees of erstwhile West Pakistani and members of Valmiki Samaj and Gorkha communities.
Under the new domicile law, all those persons and their children who have resided in J-K for fifteen years or studied for seven years and appeared in class 10th or 12th examination in an educational institution in the UT are eligible for grant of domicile. Children of Central government officials, All India service officers, officials of PSUs and autonomous bodies of Central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, Central universities and recognized research institutes of the Central Government, who have served in J-K for a total period of ten years can also be issued domicile certificates.
Besides, all those migrants and their children who are registered with Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner are being granted the domicile certificate. Children of those residents of J-K who reside outside the UT in connection with their employment or other professional or vocational reasons have also become eligible for grant of domicile status.
J-K’s major regional mainstream parties including National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), People’s Conference besides CPIM and separatist organizations had termed the issuance of domicile certificates to non-locals as the first major step towards changing its demography “planned by the government at the behest of the RSS”. J-K National Panthers’ Party which enjoys public support mainly in Jammu too has strongly opposed the new domicile law. They argue that issuing of domicile certificates to non-locals is “ill-advised, arbitrary and dishonest” as Supreme Court has yet to decide on a series of petitions challenging the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 and have cautioned the government that it’s “misadventure” is fraught with grave consequences for the state and the country as a whole.
However, some political groups including Panun Kashmir which claims to be a representative group of displaced Kashmiri Pandits welcomed the new domicile law on the premise that this would end decades of discrimination meted out to sections of people living and working in J-K including those in armed forces and progeny of permanent female residents of the erstwhile state married to non-locals.
BJP officially maintains that new domicile law will neither change the demography nor snatch the jobs of the local youth but end certain discriminations and injustices which were existing despite the constitutional guarantees.