The new domicile law rules could permanently alter the state, socially and politically.
n the 1990s, Jammu and Kashmir intensely speculated the possibility that the Union government might want to alter its demography to deny militants their support base among Muslims, who constituted 68% of its population then.
This speculation perhaps arose because the Union government legitimately insisted, on the basis of the Indian Constitution, that J&K was an integral part of India.
The speculators thought the Union government had two options. The obvious of these was to abrogate Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which recognised J&K’s right to define permanent state subjects, who alone could enter state services and educational institutes, enjoy property rights, and vote in the Assembly elections.
These rights ensured that outsiders did not swamp the state and dilute its identity.
In those years, it was hard to imagine the Indian state reading down Article 370 and abrogating Art 35A (which the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government did on 5 August 2019).
Might it not opt for the second option of issuing permanent resident certificates to non-state-citizens, eventually diluting J&K’s particularistic or special identity over time?
Soon, the speculation turned into a popular allegation. It triggered an outcry that prompted Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah to institute, in 1999, the State Subject Inquiry Commission under Justice (retd) AQ Parray.
Fake State Subject/PRC
The commission was tasked with probing whether permanent resident certificates issued to those who did not qualify for it.
In local parlance, such certificates are fake PRCs, or fake permanent resident certificates.
The Commission, in 2013, identified 137 PRCs and recommended their cancellation.
Its recommendation came to Basharat Bukhari, the revenue minister in the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party government, in 2016.
He endorsed the recommendation, suggested amendments in law to severely punish those who issue fake PRCs, and forwarded his proposals to the Cabinet, which approved it. The file went to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. And that was where matter came to rest.
It would seem 137 fake PRCs are just too few to bother about. The commission was, however, empowered to only probe complaints made against people possessing fake PRCs. It could not conduct a suo motu inquiry. “This is why the Commission’s list [of fake PRCs] cannot be treated as an exhaustive one,” Bukhari, who is now in the National Conference, said to us. Only a comprehensive examination of all PRCs could have provided a realistic picture of the number of fakes floating around.
This backstory assumes significance in the wake of the J&K government notifying on 18 May, the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules, 2020.
These rules prescribe qualifications required for different categories of people to apply for domicile certificates, and the documents they will need to furnish in support of their claims.
How to get a Domicile certificate in the new law?
The PRC is one among the many documents that can be submitted to secure the domicile certificate.
Thereafter, the importance of the PRC downs: its holder will no longer enjoy special rights. All those who possess domicile certificates will have the same rights too.
The government could have treated the PRC on par with the domicile certificate. It did not, because the PRC was textual evidence, so to speak, of the uniqueness of Kashmiri identity. Khurram Parvez, programme coordinator, J&K Coalition of Civil Society, said to us, “At one stroke, the PRC has become a subordinate certificate.” This symbolically represents the attempt to textually bury J&K’s particularistic or special identity. India had promised to preserve Kashmir’s identity within what is now popularly called the idea of India.
Before its burial, the authorities will have little time to separate the genuine PRC from the fake PRC, which too will be submitted to acquire domiciliary status.
This is just one example of the many ambiguities inherent in the Domicile law Certificate Rules. One of the two authors reached out to Rohit Kansal, principal secretary, Information Department, for clarifications regarding the Domicile Rules.
Kansal asked him to WhatsApp the queries, which was accordingly done. We waited for 48 hours before writing about the possible extent to which J&K’s demography can change because of the Domicile law Rules.
The 15-year rule:
Section 3(a) of the Domicile law Rules states that any person who has resided in J&K for a “period of 15 years” will be eligible for the domicile certificate.
This category will include all those who have PRCs, whether genuine or fake, refugees from West Pakistan who settled in J&K at the time of Partition, and outstate migrants who have been in Kashmir for 15 years or more.
The phrase “period of 15 years” suggests he or she should have continuously resided in J&K for those many years.
There are Census data available on outstate migrants. The data can be mined to quantify the number of people who will stand to benefit from the Domicile law Rules.
J&K counts among the exceptions in north India that attracts migrants from other states, largely because of its relatively higher wages.
Its wages are 1.43 times higher than the national average wage, 1.5 times more than Uttar Pradesh’s, and 1.64 times more than Bihar’s (See Table I).
Table I: Ratio of Wages of Jammu and Kashmir vis-à-vis National Average, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar
|J&K: National Average||1.43|
In the 2011 Census report on migrants, we found that outstate migrants constituted 28.09 lakh of J&K’s population of 1.23 crores. (the 1.23 crore, Ladakh, carved out of J&K last year, accounted for just 2.90 lakh).
Once there, outstate migrants seem inclined to settle down in J&K, not least because its free, high-quality school education enhances the life-chances of their children. Table II displays migrants according to the number of years they have lived in J&K.
Table II: Breakup of Migrants in Jammu and Kashmir (2011 Census)
|Cognitive Classification||Number||Percentage||2011 Census|
|Seasonal Migrants||141401||5.03||less than 1 year|
|Short term||352840||12.56||1-4 years|
|medium term||334868||11.92||5-9 years|
|Long-Term||1404354||49.98||10 years and above|
from Table II, it is clear that by 2011, nearly 50% of migrants, or 14 lakh, living in J&K for 10 years or longer.
Around 12%, or 3.35 lakh, have been there for between five and nine years.
Ten years have passed since the 2011 Census, thereby implying that both these categories of migrants satisfy the 15-year rule prescribed for securing domicile certificates.
In other words, 17.4 lakh people can certainly acquire domicile rights with the new domicile law,
which constituted roughly 14% of J&K’s population of 1.23 crore in 2011.
(Assuming that all long-term and medium-term migrants have continued to stay on in J&K,
in line with the findings recorded in the 2011 Census.)
This figure cannot be scoffed at. It will alter J&K’s political topography.
Unlike previously, they will now get to vote in the J&K’s Assembly and local elections. With victory margins consistently coming down, migrants-turned-domiciles will acquire an incredible political heft.
But the 17.4 lakh figure will likely balloon, as even a percentage of short-term migrants, by 2020, will have lived in J&K for 15 years.
Add to this the possibility that a slice of the “unaccounted” migrants, or those who did not, in 2011,
reveal the number of years they had been living in J&K, could have been also there for 15 years and more.
This alters the nature of J&K demography, and reduces the political significance of those who were permanent state subjects.
It is a truism that a region’s political and socio-cultural identities are inextricably woven together.
The seven-year rule:
Section 3(a) of the Domicile Certificate Rules states that a person who has studied for
seven years and passed Class X or Class XII in the Union Territory of J&K can apply for the domicile certificate.
Children, unless admitted to a residential school or to government-run hostels, are very unlikely to have lived alone for their schooling in J&K.
Who would they be? They would be children of outstate migrants, whether holding menial jobs, or working in the private sector, or running their businesses.
Their parents might not meet the 15-year rule, but their children would in case they
have studied in J&K for seven years and passed Class X or Class XII. Woe betides those who have failed! They cannot become a J&K domicile.
It is possible a private sector executive, after working for seven or eight years in J&K, can get transferred out of the Union Territory. But his or her children can still return to J&K in the future, to acquire the domicile certificate.
Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of the Kashmir Times, points to another anomaly: “The Domicile law Rules do not have a cut-off period. Presumably, anyone who has studies for seven years over the last 70 years qualifies for the domicile certificate.”
Add all the beneficiaries to the 17.4 lakhs of outstate migrants who meet the 15-year rule and you can grasp the nature of demographic change being attempted in J&K.
The Pakistani refugee:
Under the 15-year rule will also come the families which fled West Pakistan to J&K and settled there.
There are varying estimates regarding the number of West Pakistani refugees in J&K, from 2.5 lakh to 5 lakh.
Their non-state resident status was cited as a significant reason for justifying the abrogation of Art 35A.
The refugee issue, however, took an unexpected turn in 2018.
In that year, the central government decided to provide Rs 5.5 lakh to each of the West Pakistan
refugee families as one-time financial assistance.
According to an Indian Express report, not a single family applied to avail of the assistance.
Some who did subsequently withdrew their applications.
The newspaper quoted sources in the bureaucracy and among refugee leaders to explain the phenomenon of zero application. Most refugees either did not carry documents at the time they fled West Pakistan to establish their place of residence or they misplaced these over subsequent decades. Or they all had procured PRCs over time, through fraudulent methods.
Apprehensive that they booked for acquiring fake PRCs, they chose to forego the Rs 5.5 lakh, not a paltry amount.
Ideally, the event of 2018 should have prompted a neutral administration to probe why not a single
West Pakistan refugees stepped forward to claim financial assistance. The history of misdeeds inherent in securing fake PRCs forgotten as the domicile certificate supersedes the PRC now.
The Indian Express quoted refugee leaders saying that there are around 20,000 West Pakistani refugees in J&K. What then is the basis to claim that anywhere between 2.5 and 5 lakh refugees reside in J&K? What purpose does it serve?
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Section 3(b) of Domicile Certificate Rules offers domicile rights to all migrants who are registered
with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) in J&K. These are, essentially, migrants who shifted out of Kashmir to Jammu because of militancy.
Around 1.53 lakh Kashmiri migrants, spread over 43,930 families, are registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner.
Also registered with the Commissioner are another 979 families that migrated from different parts of the Jammu region,
such as Doda, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch, to areas relatively free of militancy.
All these families, native to J&K, should be having PRCs. This has Bhasin raise a pertinent question: “Since they all should be having PRCs, why have they created a separate category for [internal] migrants. Officials say that Kashmiri Pandits, who were earlier not registered [with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner], will now be allowed to register.”
Assuming this to be the case, even these Kashmiri Pandits would be having their PRC, or that of their parents.
Bhasin, therefore, asks, “Are they trying to get back Pandits who left for other parts of India, say, a century or more ago?
” A rolling back of the clock will swell up the number of non-Muslim Kashmiris and enhance their power.
Perhaps the most contentious of all sections of Domicile law Rules is 3 (c), which says that children of “Central Government Official[s], All India Service Officers,” and of others in a slew of Central government institutions who have served in J&K for a “total period of 10 years” are eligible to apply for domicile certificates.
There is no cut-off period prescribed, thereby implying that children of all those who have served in
J&K can apply for the domicile certificate, subject to them having served for a total of 10 years.