India’s latest step to open Jammu & Kashmir settlement by outsiders sparked another concern “Palestine in the making” among the majority Muslim population.
The Indian government issued a notice on April 1 that changed the old residency law in the region. Now the rights of anyone who has lived in the region for 15 years to domicile status – 10 for central government officials and their children and seven for middle school students.
This change took place eight months after India revoked Article 370 of the constitution which provided considerable autonomy for countries within the country – an arrangement that was enacted at the time of accession to India in 1947. In August 2019, India also divided the two countries into two union territories. : Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
The new law has now become a source of deep concern for residents in Muslim-majority areas who worry it is directed to bring about demographic change. Jammu & Kashmir, according to the 2011 Census, has 68.3% of the Muslim population, while Hindus constitute 30%, Sikhs 2%, and Buddhists, who mostly inhabit Ladakh, are a little over 1%.
“Elimination of Article 370 is a theory, this is the practical part now,” said Naseer Ahmad, a Kashmiri columnist. “The aim is always to turn the majority of Muslims in the region into a minority. And India has determined to achieve this, not even waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. “
Most Kashmiri social and political organizations oppose changes to this law. This includes Jamni & Kashmir Apni Party, a allegedly pro-New Delhi clothing was founded recently. Its leader, a businessman who turned politician Altaf Bukhari, who was declared to have reconciled with the post-Article 370 political dispensation, was the first to criticize the April 1 notification.
“This order as a whole is a casual effort, of a cosmetic nature, to deceive J&K people who truly believe that post-October. 31, 2019, their rights and privileges in terms of employment and other rights will remain as before, “Bukhari said in a statement.
Under Article 370, land and employment in the area are strictly reserved for “permanent residents,” a term which under the new law has been changed to a residence. Under the new law, in the beginning, only low fourth-class work was provided for the local population. Following the counterattack in the region, especially in Jammu which is predominantly Hindu, BJP stronghold, the law was amended to reserve all work for the domicile.
Given their smaller numbers – 1.3 million – people in Jammu & Kashmir have reason to fear the worst.
An estimated 600,000 security personnel have been deployed in Kashmir to fight militancy. This region is also home to up to 700,000 migrant workers. Many indigenous people are now worried that the new law will qualify for a significant proportion of the two “outsiders” to the status of domicile.
Meanwhile, the central government has also renamed the Jammu & Kashmir Ownership Rights to the Slum Settlement Act by removing references to “permanent residents.” This has made it easier for residents of non-local slums to obtain property rights.
He has granted domicile status to 300,000 West Pakistani refugees in Jammu – almost all Hindus. These refugees arrived from Pakistan during the British Indian Partition and many subsequent wars between the two countries, but Article 370 has prohibited them so far from becoming citizens. They can vote in national elections, not in local legislative elections.
With New Delhi also seducing the houses of large companies and state traders to invest in Kashmir with an offer of a 6,000-hectare land bank, more and more outsiders are expected to be eligible for future residency status.
All this threatens the survival of Kashmir as a Muslim majority area.
Pakistan and Hindu nationalism
For neighboring Pakistan, which claims the state as part of an unfulfilled “Separation affair”, this complicates the problem.
In a hypothetical scenario when a plebiscite was held, Pakistan until now expects the majority of Jammu & Kashmir Muslims to choose it over India. New Delhi’s move to change Kashmiri demographics, thus, has provoked a strong reaction from the prime minister’s government Imran Khan.
On April 2, Pakistan’s foreign office issued a statement:
The so-called “Jammu and Kashmir of the 2020 Order Reorganization” is another illegal step by India to resolve non-Kashmiris at IOJ & K (India occupied by Jammu and Kashmir) by changing domicile laws. This is clearly a violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.
Meanwhile, the new law is seen as an attempt to execute the long-standing ideological agenda of the Hindu Indian Nationalist Party Bharatiya Janata Party for the region which began with lifting autonomy from Jammu & Kashmir last August.
“Even during a colossal pandemic, a party will continue its Hindutva project to further alienate Kashmir politically, economically and psychologically. With a clear aim to trigger demographic change, “Gowhar Geelani, a political commentator based in Srinagar, write on Facebook. “Difficult questions must be asked from all political formations across the ideological spectrum because of their inability to protect Kashmir’s interests.”
The region itself has been largely peaceful since the repeal of Article 370, thanks to security lockouts and a communication blockade that has slowly subsided. The locking of Covid-19 throughout the country has been useful for the Narendra Modi government to prevent possible expressions of public hatred towards the new law.
However, whether that step bodes well for the future is not yet seen.