India’s bigoted settler colonialism

Naila Altaf Kayani

On August 5 last year, the Indian government unilaterally wiped out autonomy of unruly Kashmir. Kashmiris took it as the first step of the broader plan to erode the core rights of Kashmiris, altering demographics of the predominately Muslim state by flooding in non-Kashmiris and eventually destroying its character. Now to rub salt into the wounds of already anguished Kashmiris, India’s central government lays down a new domicile rule. Bharatiya Janata Party has taken yet another step in pushing forward its Hindutva agenda.
Under this bizarre redefinition, a person who has resided for a period of 15 years in IOJK or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in class 10 or 12 examination in an educational institution located in the territory will be eligible for IOJK domicile certificate. Migrants registered by the relief and rehabilitation commissioner in the union territory will also be deemed domiciled. This definition includes those outsider employees as well who are working in central banks, central government departments, central universities or public sector undertakings for the domicile rights after a ten (10) year’s period of service in the state, even their children and migrants living outside IOJK will be entitled for domicile benefits. This clause is particularly alarming as it will even the children of the security personnel who have served in IOJK for 10 years or more, to settle in the state and compete for the jobs.
Prior to abrogation of article 370, 35-A, Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature had the power to define ‘permanent residents’, the same set up would define eligibility of jobs and rights of owning property in the state. But this move comes as a stark departure from previously held norm in the erstwhile state. The new law empowers Tehsildars (who can be easily managed) to issue domicile certificates within their areas of jurisdictions, hence converting it into an administrative matter rather than identity based residency.
Previously, jobs were exclusively reserved for State Subjects or Permanent Residency Certificate holders of erstwhile state. But under new rule the original residents have been entitled for class IV jobs only (Includes lowest non-gazetted jobs like constable and junior assistant etc.) while for the higher and gazetted posts, all citizens of India can be the claimants of jobs in IOJK, which already has a huge unemployment problem.
There is a deafening din over the tendentious and mala fide ‘Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Order, 2020’, Kashmiris are distressed by the cynical and politically motivated move and condemn the Indian government’s attempts to facilitate inflow and settlement of outsiders into IOJK for demographic transformation of the state. All the mainstream parties in IOJK, AJK and Kashmiris across the globe have criticized the gazette notification. Omar Abdullah, National Conference leader, former chief minister and grandson of Sheikh Abdullah said that the notification was “adding insult to the injuries of the people”, others equate it as another breach of trust. Timing chosen by New Delhi is also suspicious, Kashmir is under siege and internet blockade, people in various countries including India are under lock down, and the world is grappling with Corona pandemic.
Such undemocratic delimitation measures by New Dehli further vindicate Quaid-e-Azam’s foresight. Jinnah took accurate step in choosing Choudhry Ghulam Abbas over Sheikh Abdullah. Thanks to the leadership of Sardar Ibrahim Khan, foresight of K.H Khursheed and initiative and bravery of Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, a part of Jammu and Kashmir got liberated and we are living a peaceful life in the free part. But true peace is not possible as long as our sisters, brothers and children are being deprived of the basic human rights and necessities of life in the occupied Kashmir.
Kashmiris around the globe urge United Nations and world community to impress upon India the disputed nature of the occupied territory and that UN resolutions prohibit any unilateral action targeted at changing the disputed nature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Naila Altaf Kayani belongs to Azad Kashmir, she is a researcher, a social activist and public speaker. She can be reached at [email protected], she tweets @altaf_kayani

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