Kashmiri Pandits and the ‘New Domicile Rules’ of Jammu & Kashmir

Kashmiri Pandits protesting for their rights. (Representative image)
Kashmiri Pandits protesting for their rights. (Representative image)

It is learnt through media sources that an exercise is underway at the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for framing rules, defining procedures and notifying the competent authority for issuance of domicile certificates in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The exercise has begun in the wake of the J&K Reorganization order issued by the Home Ministry on March 31, 2020. It is also reported that final touches are being given to the draft rules and the task may be completed very soon.

Soon after the Home Ministry announced new domicile rules for the union territory of J&K, there was a wave of resentment in J&K civil society against some clauses of the new rules, but more particularly about the opening of recruitment to non-class IV vacancies in the government service to non-state subjects also. Even the BJP leadership of J&K lodged a strong protest so that the Home Ministry had to withdraw this controversial clause. The quick withdrawal of the contentious clause of the order within 24-hours created an impression with the stakeholders that mandarins responsible for framing the new rules are not conversant with the ground situation in J&K, and the exercise of scribing was done while sitting in the armchairs of a coffee lounge. Some observers even attributed it to the mischief of the insiders. 

Valley-based political leadership and the tendentious vernacular press consider the State Reorganization Act as “war against people” a la the Gupkar Declaration. In Kashmir, Home Ministry’s newly formulated domicile laws do not go down the throat of political dissenters.  Almost all shades of political opinion in the Kashmir Valley converge on the self-styled fiction that the BJP government intends to change the demographic complexion of Kashmir. Because of this, they consider the revised domicile rules highly reprehensible. 

The formulation of new domicile rules for the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir is a sensitive matter and needs to be handled with the utmost care, keeping in mind the historical background and a variety of identities with possible ramifications. All these aspects become more stringent owing to a far-reaching historical decision of the parliament of doing away with the statehood of J&K. 

By way of the low-key but scathing disapproval of the Reorganization Act of the Parliament, and its consequential corollaries, a malicious campaign through local print media has been unleashed by the Valley-based diehard exclusivists to discredit the Home Ministry’s progressive measure of new domicile laws not directly but by projecting Kashmiri Hindu (Pandit) minority as the sacrificial goat. The antics unfold a multi-fold attack to frustrate the Home Ministry’s decisive plans for Kashmir. It aims at creating doubts among the Kashmiri Pandit minorities about the Home Ministry’s earnestness towards their cause; it aims at denigrating the Home Ministry that despite being the “right-wing” it plays ducks and drakes with the Hindu minority community in Kashmir. And thirdly, it is also a subtle move to brainwash the youthful Kashmiri Muslim generation, and to make them believe in a distorted version of the role of Kashmiri Pandits in promoting the interests of entire Kashmiri community. 

The truth is that not only the state subject law but also the idea of a secular democratic political forum for the people of J&K with Sheikh Abdullah as its front leader was the result of the efforts the Kashmir Pandit student community in Lahore around 1920s. They were the most befriended visitors of Allama Iqbal who too was of Kashmiri origin.  

The largest religious minority of the Kashmir Valley, namely the Kashmiri Pandits (now arbitrarily and unjustly designated “migrants” and not the universally recognized category of “internally displaced people”), is that naïve as to be tricked and misled by cronies?  Of course, there are stray black sheep, but they do not make the rule. Pandits know that the reality behind the apparent silence in Kashmir political circles or the sarcastic and provocative profiling of Kashmiri Pandits the exclusivists reflects the drop scene of militancy in Kashmir. The maligning campaign initiated in the print media is the typical trait of a split personality. 

Keeping in view this new scenario, and also that the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs is working hard and procedures for implementing the  new domicile law, the Home Ministry would do well to assert by making its position clear on some crucial points.

The Ministry must provide exact definitions of State Subject, Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) and Domicile Certificate, because as these terms are making rounds in the current written and spoken discourse related to the new law. Secondly, it must clarify whether registration under new domicile rules applies to one and all in the union territory, including those who have the State Subject Certificates in their possession issued by the State authorities. Thirdly, in the case of Kashmiri Pandit migrants, it is essential to define whether (a) Those registered as “migrants” with the State Relief Commissioner also need to obtain new domicile certificate or not? (b) Whether such KP “migrants” as are registered in any other state of the country,  other than J&K and Delhi, are entitled to the status of the domicile of J&K by birth (which they are) and have they to apply for domicile certificate afresh or not. Fourthly, how will the new domicile law deal with the diaspora of the migrated minority community that had to go to distant places in and outside the country to fend for themselves and their families? The ministry of home affairs must make it clear that Kashmir Pandit Displaced Persons registered in any state of the Union of India are entitled to domicile status of the Union Territory of J&K. This is what the President of AIKS (All India Kashmiri Samaj), New Delhi said in his aid memoir to the Home Minister some weeks back and this is also precisely what the chief spokesman of the newly formed Apni Party has lucidly argued in a statement published in Outlook of May 1, 2020. The President of Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Jammu, has already sent a memorandum to the Lt. Governor raising almost similar issues.

The Home Ministry knows that there was an ethnic cleansing of the Kashmir Valley in 1990 and the entire Kashmir Pandit community was extirpated from its ancient homeland, and is  scattered and dispersed all over the country and in other countries of the world. Their left-over houses, moveable and immoveable properties, orchards, shops, establishments, jobs and everything has been grabbed by the locals and even revenue records have been tampered with by interested parties to cut off their roots from Kashmir. In continuation of this genocidal treatment, now print media in the Valley is being used to declare them “administratively, politically and legally the pariah”, meaning the people who have lost the right right to domicile in Kashmir. This amounts to completing the cycle of ethnic cleansing of this community by their compatriots.

In view of these developments, the Home Ministry needs to clarify its position as regards the internally displaced people, the Kashmiri Pandit religious minority, while its agencies are engaged in framing the rules and procedures for of implementing the new domicile laws.


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