“Palestine in the making”: Netizens react to issuance of domicile certificates

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On Friday a senior bureaucrat in the Jammu and Kashmir administration, Navin Kumar Choudhary, became one of the first non-natives to be granted domiciliary rights in the erstwhile state.

According to a report by The Tribune, Mr. Kumar was among the nearly 25,000 applicants to receive the domicile certificate. A resident of Bihar, Mr. Kumar is an Indian Administrative Service officer of the now abolished J-K cadre.

The grant of domiciliary rights to the non-native officer drew sharp criticism from Kashmiris on social media, who view the Centre’s domicile law as a method to execute a “pre-planned demographic change”.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah was among the first to oppose the development. The National Conference leader had been booked under the Public Safety Act for seven months following the abrogation of J-K’s limited autonomy last year. His party has since then given few statements on the issue.

Iltija Javaid, the daughter of Peoples Democratic Party leader and the last chief minister in the erstwhile state, Mehbooba Mufti, took a sarcastic note of the development, equating it with the border tensions with China in the Ladakh region, which until last year was part of the state of J-K.

“Will Chinese have to apply for domicile rights in J&K or do they get it by default since GOI’s no intrusion into Galwan valley stand has redrawn LaC? Our apprehensions about demographic changes has another dimension to it now.”

Dr. Mubeen Shah, former president of Kashmir’s influential trade body, the Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke of fears in the region following the imposition of the domicile law. Mr. Shah was also under detention last year and was released on 7 December last year onhumanitarian grounds”.

According to the government figures quoted by The Tribune, out of the 33,157 applications, about 25,000 domicile certificates have been issued in the 10 districts of the Jammu region whereas in the Kashmir region, only 720 have applied for the certificate, out of which 438 certificates have been issued so far.

The development was also criticised by religious leaders from the minority Shia community—who linked it to possible adverse impact on the region’s economy and culture.

The grant of domicile certificate to the non-native bureaucrat was widely criticised by Kashmiri netizens through dark humour, expressing anxiety over a grim future that lied ahead for Kashmir’s natives.

The central government had imposed the domicile law on the night of May 31, prompting protests from the Jammu region as the law provided for reservation to natives for only the lowest rung government jobs. The law was amended two days later.

Domicile laws in March this year which allow citizens of India who have lived in the erstwhile state for 15 years or studied for seven years including migrants, Central government employees, Indian armed forces personnel, IAS, IPS and their children, employees of public sector undertakings and banks, central universities who have served in Jammu & Kashmir for 10 years, eligible for J&K’s domiciliary.

According to the law, any Tehsildar who fails to issue a domicile certificate to applicants on time will be punished by a penalty of Rs 50,000 from their salary. The order came after a month when the Hereditary State Subject law was replaced with the domicile certificate through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020.

Residents of J-K fear that the domiciliary rule will change the demographic, cultural, and ethnicity of the region as the law allow outsiders to settle in the region which will create an unprecedented homogeneity.

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