New Domicile Law and its Implications

New Domicile Law and its Implications

Hamid Rather

At a time when the country is struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Union Home Ministry has issued a new domicile law, repealing 29 state laws and amending 109 others with immediate effect from March 31. It is no less than a massive bomb dropped on the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is not a law made by people’s representatives; it is a Machiavellian order that has begun the process of demographic transition in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Government of India has once again trampled on the hopes and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the timing of the order is an insult to their injuries. Democratic governments never use a natural calamity to pursue their insidious plans in a territory so broken and fractured as Jammu and Kashmir. Dear Prime Minister, will you answer to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for the misadventures that have robbed us of all rights, promises, and the culture and identity that our forefathers had preserved and passed on to us, which we have long been struggling to protect for future generations and now seem to have lost completely.
The thought with which people in J&K awoke on the morning of April 1 is that the promises made to them were an ‘April Fool’ joke. Under Section 96 of the new Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, officially called Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020, issued on March 31, the clauses 3A and 5A have sent a chill down our spine. Section 3A defines who is a domicile and Section 5A defines the special rights of the domiciles. These rights rested with the state legislature before the abrogation of Article 370 and now they have been usurped by the Union government whose territory J&K has become.

Who is a Domicile?
As per Clause 3A of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020, the domicile of UT of J&K is (a) anyone who has resided for a period of 15 years in the UT of J&K or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th /12th examination in UT of J&K (b) a migrant registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (c) Children of central govt officials, officials of All India Services, PSUs, autonomous bodies of the central government, public sector banks, central universities, and research institutes recognised by the central government, provided the parents have served in J&K for 10 years (d) Children of such residents of UT of J&K who reside outside Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir due to their occupations but their parents fulfill any of the conditions provided in sub-section (a).

Rights of Domicile
Section 5A states that no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post carrying a pay scale of not more than level 4 (Rs 25,500) “unless he is a domicile of UT of J&K.” This way the rights of domicile of Jammu and Kashmir to only Class IV jobs of inferior category. Is this the development the Union Home Ministry was speaking of in Parliament as the rationale for reading down Article 370? Pathetic! The re-organisation of the state is but a “collective punishment” as it is meant to dilute the culture, identity, history and demography of Jammu and Kashmir. The new domicile law is in form of “individual punishment” where domiciles are each robbed of their entitlements. Together the measures have insulted the dignity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and pushed them into forced choices or lack of choices. Reserving jobs of safai karamcharis, sweepers, and chaprasis for domiciles is an insult that will spark political unrest in the near future.

New Domicile Law – Implications
With the new domicile law, the demographic transition of Jammu and Kashmir has begun. The delimitation exercise of political constituencies is next and is certain to aggravate widespread fears of conversion of the Muslim-majority state into a Hindu-majority one. Apart from the rightful West Pakistan refugees and Valmikis, the personnel of army and security establishments, central government officials, and other designations mentioned in the law have received a legal stamp to become domiciles and build their villas anywhere in the UT. Their children and people from mainland India will now be eligible for all gazetted, non-gazetted, and administrative level posts. There will be no surprise if they occupy high posts in universities, colleges, and administration as the union government has adopted Lord Cornwallis’ concept of “racial superiority” with some modifications. The right to fight elections in erstwhile state of J&K was domicile-linked but now any citizen of the country can fight elections here. Though the law is silent about who can own property in the UT, it can be assumed that any citizen of the country is now eligible to own property in the UT. This regressive domicile law is bizarre at a time when we are grappling with a pandemic. Politicians and people both suspect insidious motives behind the timing of the law and have expressed their outrage, including Omar Abdullah who is quite popular on Twitter.
Development was cited as the rationale for reading down Article 370, but where is the development? For five months now, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC) has not been reconstituted after the former chairman Latief-uz-Zaman Deva was removed on the grounds that he taken oath illegally. What is the future of the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service? The domicile law is silent on that. Who is going to answer to the youth who have been preparing for years for the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service? Bringing in laws without considering the subjects and when they are under a lockdown imposed by none other than the Prime Minister himself, may be expected from an exploitative colonial regime but not from a democratically elected government. Mr Prime Minister, please answer us why your government has issued the law at a time we are fighting for survival? Is this the ethics your government is following? Is this the integrity you have always talked of? Dear prime minister, you have disappointed us today. Is this the love that you often speak of for the people of Jammu and Kashmir?
It is true that the region’s politicians and bureaucrats were treating the institutions in Jammu and Kashmir as their personal agencies or private fiefdoms. Their fear is that they have lost a good source of sustaining their domination, exploitation, and corruption. But the larger question is how corruption and nepotism will be checked in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir as the same politicians are making tactical moves from one party to another and will rule the roost tomorrow. What efforts the Union Home Ministry has made to reduce corruption in the rank and file of the government in Jammu and Kashmir? None!
The repealing of the state constitution, reading down of Article 370, and the new domicile law are the major steps taken towards the aim of changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir. Erstwhile state subject laws were a protective measure to save local ethnicities like Kashmiri, Ladakhi, Dogri and others. The new domicile law has taken away that protection and has multiplied fears of an assault on the identity of Jammu and Kashmir.

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