Srinagar: Regional political parties in Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday criticised the move by the Modi government to redefine domicile rules for government jobs in the union territory and said it has raised apprehension over a demographic change there.
The parties have also questioned the government’s priorities, saying it should ideally be focussing on fighting the coronavirus pandemic now.
The government’s new decisions come eight months after it scrapped Article 370 in J&K.
According to the latest notification, anyone who has resided in J&K for 15 years or has studied in the UT for seven years, and appeared in either the Class 10 or the Class 12 examination, will be eligible for domicile certificates. This would allow them to apply for gazetted and non-gazetted government jobs.
It’s domicile dole-out mela, says NC
The National Conference (NC), in a statement, described the new rules as “hollow” and also questioned the timing of the move.
“When the entire country is battling Covid-19 and people and their representatives of J&K are bereft with worries and concerns about their lives and of their families, the Government of India brings in the law,” said the party’s chief spokesperson Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi in the statement.
“How cruel the law is for the people of J&K, when it paves the way for a person, from anywhere in India, having studied here for 7 years or so, to claim domicile? Is it possible for a student studying in other states to have a similar stake there?” said Mehdi, adding that the central government is starting a “domicile dole-out mela in J&K”.
The party also said the rules do not offer to protect land rights of the people belonging to the erstwhile state.
“Unlike in other states like Himachal Pradesh, where land rights have been well-safeguarded by domicile law, in J&K’s domicile law, there is no such provision. All across the country, people who lived 70 years of their lives in the country are being asked to prove their claim over citizenship, but here anyone with a 10-15-year stay is eligible for a domicile certificate,” the NC said in the statement.
Modi govt scripted disaster: People’s Conference
The Peoples Democratic Party, whose president and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, continues to be under detention, demanded immediate rollback of the new rules and termed the new domicile order “frighteningly ambivalent, irresolute and akin to rubbing salt to the people’s wounds”.
“We want the government to save precious lives from the virus, which is out to swallow the entire human race. When the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic, it is deeply perturbing that some in the corridors of power are playing mind games with the perturbed people of Jammu and Kashmir, who have been battling odd times since decades,” said PDP general secretary and former MLC Surinder Choudhary in a statement.
J&K People’s Conference leader and Mayor of Srinagar Junaid Mattu termed the order “humiliating”.
“The Presidential order defining the domicile law issued at the depth of night while the world is under the grip of a deadly pandemic falls way short of expectations even for those who expected some relief and some reconciliation process. The new definition of ‘domicile’ is humiliating and insulting,” Mattu said in a statement.
“The lowest rung in jobs has been reserved for locals — not even non-gazetted but Class IV jobs. There seems to be a clear intent of conveying yet another serving of humiliation and insult to the people of J&K after what transpired on 5 August (the day when Article 370 was scrapped),” he said.
Mattu said in the middle of “one of the worst medical disasters facing the world”, the Modi government has the time “to script a disaster of its own”.
“During the Covid-19 battle, the people of J&K didn’t deserve more humiliation,” he added.
New rules hoodwinked people of J&K: Apni Party
J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari, who was a former PDP minister, said the new domicile order is “cosmetic”.
“This order in its entirety is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of Jammu and Kashmir who genuinely believed that post 31 October 2019, their rights and privileges in the matter of employment and other rights would remain as it had been,” Bukhari said.
The Apni Party, comprising defectors and rebels from various other regional parties, had made protection of jobs, land and domicile rights the cornerstone of their ideology.
A party delegation had even met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah last month in this regard.
After the meeting, Bukhari had said the prime minister assured him that no demographic change will be done in J&K.
Cruel joke, says Congress
The Congress said the move is a cruel joke with the rights of the local youth and demanded a special status for J&K under Schedule six of the Constitution of India.
“Jammu and Kashmir too is hilly region of the country with large boundaries as borders/LOC and different cultures and diversity with distinct aspirations as well other relevant factors, which qualify it to be treated as a special region in the country like Northern States, with restoration of the statehood status,” J&K Congress chief G.A. Mir said.
The BJP, meanwhile, welcomed the new rules.
The party’s Kashmir spokesperson Altaf Thakur told ThePrint the government move was in line with its objective to rectify the wrongs of governments of J&K since 1947.