The Centre’s move to redefine the domicile rules of Jammu & Kashmir is bound to trigger fears over possible demographic changes in the Valley. Nearly eight months after scrapping Article 370, the NDA government has tweaked the domicile rules for government jobs in the Union Territory. As per the new notification, those who have resided for a period of 15 years or studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class X/XII examinations in educational institutions located in the region are now eligible to get domicile certificates. This would allow them to apply for gazetted and non-gazetted government jobs. The new rules constitute a stark departure from the earlier domicile laws in the State. Until J&K was stripped of its special status, granted under Article 370, and bifurcated into two union territories on August 5 last year, Article 35A of the Constitution empowered the State Assembly to define a J&K resident. Only J&K residents were eligible to apply for jobs or own immovable property in the erstwhile State. The latest government order defines domicile as an administrative category rather than identity-based residency. It replaces “permanent residents” of the former State with “domiciles” of the new Union Territory. The notification comes amidst apprehensions in the Union Territory that there would be a “demographic flooding” following abrogation of Article 370, which guaranteed State subjects the right to jobs, owning property and legislating laws. In an extraordinary gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Centre has repealed the J&K Civil Services (special provisions) Act and amended a total of 109 laws of the erstwhile State.
As per the new rules, children of officials with the Central government, all India services, public sector undertakings, public sector banks, Central universities and recognised research institutes of the Central government who have served in J&K for 10 years will also be eligible to apply for gazetted and non-gazetted government jobs. Understandably, the political parties in the Valley have reacted strongly to the modified domicile law, saying it amounted to adding insult to injury, while several Kashmiris took to social media to argue that the move was aimed at changing the demography of the region. Many view the order as being antithesis to what was promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on the floor of Parliament while assuring the people a better domicile law. The Centre must reach out to the mainstream political parties to find solutions acceptable to the majority. The new initiatives, meant for integrating the troubled region with the rest of India, will be successful only when they are acceptable to the masses. There is a need to allay the apprehensions of the common people.
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