Kashmiris React to Domicile Laws


Over the past weeks, India has detailed the process by which Indian settlers will be able to obtain domicile certificates in occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), leading to settler-colonialism and demographic change in the region. The category of ‘Permanent Resident’, which previously protected indigenous Kashmiris’ rights, has been undermined and replaced with ‘domicile.’ The new law provides a pathway to Indians who have resided, worked, and studied in Kashmir to obtain domicile certificates. These certificates are government-issued documents proving a person’s residency and giving them access to state jobs and welfare schemes. It is expected that the category of domicile will be extended to other benefits. Moreover, the process for Kashmiris to obtain domicile certificates (which requires them to show a permanent resident certificate (PRC)) risks stripping them of their existing rights. Without adequate documents, they will be rendered stateless in their own homes and dispossessed from education, employment, and land rights, leading to massive displacement. Diaspora Kashmiris and their children who do not have PRC will be ineligible, as will refugees or exiles from Indian occupied Kashmir. The domicile laws potentially pave the way for ethnic cleansing, making the region’s Muslim-majority into second-class citizens. Legal experts Mirza Saaib Beg, Imraan Mir and Fozia Lone have explained how the laws violate Kashmiri, Indian, and international laws as well as the Geneva Convention.


Here, SWK speaks to four Kashmiris who react to the implications of the new domicile laws.


Sajad Ahmad, 32, Private Employee in telecom company, Srinagar


According to the Indian Constitution and according to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, they [the occupying Indian government] cannot change the domicile law here until it gets passed and approved by members in the J&K assembly. They didn’t make the assembly here and did not hold elections, knowing that the assembly can do otherwise [reject the new law]. They will constitute a council headed by Altaf Bukhari now and make him sign everything and pass the domicile laws as he (Altaf) claims that he has the majority with him. At present, there are 28 lakh non-local migrants in Kashmir who have spent more than 15 years here. Then, there are thousands of refugees from west Pakistan. They will make all of them citizens here. They will go for delimitation and give the majority of seats to Jammu; this way the Hindu-majority Jammu will be always considered as the majority of all of J&K. The implications of these changes will be a drastic change in the demography of Kashmir. They want to reduce Muslims into a minority. They want Jammu to rule us, so they will make a Hindu from Jammu Chief Minister. All these steps would make Kashmir economically weak and backward.


We will lose jobs and we will be forced to do hard labour. Once we are forced to do hard jobs for survival, who would remember Azadi (freedom)? That’s the whole idea behind it.


Watch our webinar that details the implications of the new domicile laws for indigenous Kashmiris.

Farooq Ahmad, 53, Farmer from Pulwama

This domicile law will ensure that the jobs that were meant for our children and reserved only for Kashmiris will be given to outsiders. Our children cannot compete with outsiders fairly for these jobs. Outside Kashmir, these [Indian] people get a good education for free, whereas our children here in Kashmir only see violence and hartals. In Kashmir, our education is incessantly interrupted by occupation. This domicile law will create unemployment among our children.

Kashmir is a mountainous region; the land belongs to us and it’s our right. The reservations that we had under (Article 370) are in every valley and mountainous region. Here, in the mountains, we have a work culture shaped by climate. During the harsh six months of winter, when it snows, we do not work and for the other six months we work to earn . It’s like eating at home for six months what we earn in the summer. That’s our culture and they will end it now. The other thing is that when these outsiders will come here to buy property and land, they will make houses and construction on agricultural land. So, another fear for us is that our women, who also do farming and go to the orchards etc., will face risks and difficulties in going out to work once these outsiders occupy our land. We have a culture in which both men and women engage in farming the land. When the outsiders will come, the ongoing harassment of our mothers and sisters will increase and they cannot go out. Even now they are facing harassment from the Indian army and police, and with the domicile laws harassment will just grow. These women can’t go out and our culture will be erased. These outsiders will invade our culture in many ways. I think another way is that our children will be made to forget our traditions and dress (kurta and pyjamas or pheran).


Our culture will be completely changed. They will make the new generation forget Kashmiri culture. So, this domicile law is very dangerous for Kashmir.


Zubair Ahmad, 35, Shopkeeper from Srinagar

The first thing is the attack on our income and jobs. They (India) want to suppress us. Like this time the law is being implemented and all the high-rank officials are Hindus. It means that there is no accountability or questions that they will be asked. The whole system is run by them and they can do anything they want. The low-rung person working with them cannot question them. For example, in jobs [there will be no transparency]; we will not be able to question whether exams took place, what was the [selection] process, and when did the interviews happen? For example last year, the government here held exams for Jammu and Kashmir Bank jobs, but till now the result has not been declared. Moreover, now these jobs have been declared null and void. Even in abrogating Article 370, no Kashmiri was given a chance to give his opinion. They just jailed us together. They removed the law while keeping us [silenced] inside.

In short, they made us so powerless that we are unable to do anything now.

Fozia, Research Scholar, Budgam

I want to throw light on the fears arising from the new domicile law. The domicile law amounts to the erasure of Article 370. Article 370 was a safeguard for Kashmiri people over their jobs, culture, and identity. After Article 370 was revoked, a new law was brought in called the domicile law and this law has become a cause of worry for us, triggering multiple fears. This new law is physically and mentally torturing for all of us. And the government introduced this law, when not only Kashmir, but the whole world is battling with the pandemic. Implementing the domicile law in such a situation is not only senseless but is a form of torture. The people of Kashmir fear that this law aims to divide the Muslim-majority region. By dividing and altering this region they want to turn it into a fully Hindu-majority region. And with this, the demography of Kashmir is being changed and altered. I fear that in future they might just erase the name Kashmir from us as well.


They want to occupy our land by these tactics. Till now we had a little bit of security so far as no one from outside could purchase our land nor could we sell it to them. But now slowly by disguising it as improvement or development, they want to snatch everything from us. They have set-up this colonial project here. You can see the administrative set-up here is totally being changed; they are allotting the top bureaucratic jobs to outsiders while the low class IV jobs like transport are being reserved for Kashmiris. The high-jobs are being given to outsiders to give them the power-line. They want to implement all these things here. They did not reserve power-based posts for us.


We are Kashmiris and what we can think of as home no one else can. Those who come from outside will not think like that. We know what is right for our Kashmir and what is bad for it. Those who come from different places cannot take care of this place. It is like giving the keys of my home to a stranger, he might care a little but he would not take care of it the way I would as an owner. This is what they are doing here- first they occupied our land, now our jobs, and slowly they want to completely change our culture and traditions. They want to change and alter Kashmir into a Hindu-majority place. After this, there will be an attack on the environment and our identity. Our identity is the biggest issue. Our identity is under threat. Till now we had to only prove our identity through I-cards but now they want to snatch it from us. Our grandparents lived here for a hundred years and I know they had to show their identity cards thousands of times for identification. But now anyone who has stayed in Kashmir for 7–10-years can get citizenship here. This is a gross injustice to the people of Kashmir. These are our fears.


We never ever felt safe under the power of the Government of India. We are against it. Every Kashmir is against the domicile law.

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