The whole country is disturbed by the spate phenomenon of targeted killings in Kashmir. Indians have been kind of numbed by constant news of terrorism in the valley, but now there is systematic targeting of a particular community. What has got the terrorists so worked up? They were targeting policemen and soldiers earlier. What made them change their target?
The terrorists are worked up because of the amendment in a law that earlier mandated that only a native Kashmiri could live in Kashmir. Now, based on certain conditions, any Indian can make Kashmir his or her domicile.
What is a domicile?
Going by the dictionary or legal definition, “domicile” is the country that a person treats as their permanent home, or lives in and has a strong connection with (Oxford English Dictionary). In the context of Jammu and Kashmir, the ambit of this definition was increased after Article 370 was virtually abrogated in August 2019.
In April 2020, the Modi government defined a new domicile rule for Jammu and Kashmir, which includes those who have lived in the union territory for 15 years. A person residing in the said region for at least 15 years is now eligible to be a domicile of the union territory.
What is notable here is that the word “Kashmiri” is not mentioned in the new law, which means even (say) a Bihari or a Keralite can live for 15 years in the area and then be considered domiciled in Kashmir. This was not possible when, along with Article 370, Article 35A was applicable, which authorised only the native population to settle in what used to be a state before 2019.
Other than being allowed to live in Kashmir, what other facilities like normal citizens can Indians enjoy after making the valley their domicile? You cannot just live there. You need to eke out a living, don’t you?
This is a very important aspect of the change that we see in Jammu and Kashmir under the Modi rule. The current union government ensured that the former state becomes just like any other where any Indian can live as well as work. To do that, it changed the employment law too.
On 31 March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020. With this order, the government changed 109 laws and repealed 29 laws of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The most important amendment was to the 2010 law, the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment Act), by substituting the term “permanent residents” with “domiciles of UT [union territory] of J&K.”
What did the 2010 Act say?
The 2010 law was about employment in the civil services at the district, divisional as well as state levels.
Now consider my answer to the previous question along with this one. Any Indian, after living in Kashmir for 15 years, becomes domiciled there and due to the amended recruitment law, he or she can also join the civil services. This means that the working population in Kashmir will get filled with Indians from all parts of the country.
So, how many Indians have been able to get the domicile status since the amendment of the laws?
Right after the recruitment law of 2010 was amended, as many as 3.7 lakh Indians applied for the domicile status and got it by August 2020. In another year, that is by August 2021, 41.05 lakh domicile certificates had been issued in Jammu and Kashmir. That included 55,931 certificates that were issued to the minorities of Pakistan who had fled from that country and taken shelter in India.
The latest figures will be released by the government in August this year. One can be sure it is either approaching double the figure of 2021 or has already crossed it. That is, more than 1 crore Indians must have settled in Jammu and Kashmir from all over the country.
While the proposed construction of segregated Hindu enclaves in Kashmir enjoyed little or no support from the region’s local political parties when the news leaked in July 2019, that was pre-abrogation. Beginning with the removal of the discriminatory laws, once the local cantankerous politicians got fatigued of little or no traction from the statements issued in their house-arrested conditions, the programme began unofficially.
Anti-Modi government columnist Christophe Jaffrelot described such Hindu enclaves in one of his articles as “garrisoning of the Kashmir valley”. Further, in December 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor’s brought new rules “to facilitate the setting up of business enterprises on private land” in the union territory in a order to attract Rs 51,000 crore investment. This caused an inflow of not only Hindu money but also Hindu business interests.
Before that, in October last year, the government had moved thousands of migrant workers to safer locations once the targeted killings started. “We moved thousands of workers to secure places and are facilitating their return home,” a senior police official told Reuters back then. The news agency then reported that “hundreds of thousands of migrant workers currently in Kashmir form the backbone of the region’s workforce in agriculture and construction”.
This is why the terrorists are worked up. They would not let Kashmir slip out of the grip of fear, but it is very much slipping out.
After the religious cleansing in the period 1989-92, very few Pandits were left in the valley. By keeping them intimidated and forcing, inciting as well as provoking the already separatist tendency of the local Muslims to give shelter to terrorists, pelt stones at the security forces, etc, the militants had virtually established their rule in the region.
One may recall that just before these targeted killings, the Indian security forces had neutralised a lot of local commanders of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizb ul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed etc. Now with the minority in the valley threatening to turn into the majority, terrorism is going to have no room left for manoeuvres.
So, these targeted killings may be viewed as the death pangs of terrorists in the valley. They hope they will get Indians so scared that everybody will flee the region once again and thus their devil’s den will stay preserved.
While the targeted killings for the past year or so have been highlighted by the media, people living in abject poverty in backward states are not going to be bogged down by the prospect of death of a few out of lakhs — never mind that this sounds insensitive — because their economic condition is no less ‘killing’. LallanTop, a subsidiary of India Today, said in October 2021 that Dalits and OBCs and even Bihari Muslims were getting a better deal in the valley.
It may take ages for Pandits, the Hindus native to the valley, to get justice, but once they feel assured enough to return to their home and hearth, they will find as neighbours ‘Biharis’ all around. Kulgam may resemble the Arrah district and Anantanag may be mistaken for Gorakhpur in that Modi-made Kashmir of the future.