SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir ― A mid-level revenue official in Kashmir is sandwiched between the Government of India that has threatened to impose a Rs 50,000 fine on tehsildars who fail to issue domicile certificates within 15 days, and other Kashmiris who are deeply anxious about the demographic change this exercise may bring about in the region.
“It is a tough, tough situation,” said A. “We are caught between the government and society At a personal level, demographic change scares me too. It is a question of the future of our next generation.”
One year after the Narendra Modi government rescinded Jammu and Kashmir’s semi autonomous status and demoted India’s only Muslim majority state to a Union Territory on 5 August, Indians who have resided in J&K for fifteen years can apply for a domicile certificate that entitles them to vote, buy land and apply for government jobs in the conflict-ridden region. The time spent in J&K, which does not have to be in one stretch, is ten years in the case of central government employees and seven years for students from the other parts of India.
The region’s Muslim majority fears the influx of “outsiders” would over time reduce them to a minority. Others who have lived in the J&K for decades, including communities like the West Pakistan Refugees, Gorkhas and Valmikis in the Jammu Division, have been waiting to become domiciles for a long time.
Of the 13.6 million living in J&K, according to Census 2011, 68.3% are Muslim while Hindus are 30%. While Kashmir is 97% Muslim, the Jammu division is 65% Hindu and 31% Muslim.
These changes could transform the struggle for restoring Article 370, now running alongside a longstanding and violent militancy, into one of retaining the Kashmiri identity.
The Modi government has not only made it necessary for outsiders to get the domicile certificates, but also the region’s permanent residents, undoing, former J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu says, the earlier...