Srinagar: The Centre late on Friday night amended the two-day-old order that redefined domiciles and recruitment rules for Jammu and Kashmir, and reserved all government jobs in the Union territory for its domiciles.
The dramatic turn by the government of India came amidst brewing opposition against the BJP, which is ruling at the Centre, of its stronghold in the Jammu region, and sharp criticism from different political parties.
In it’s April 1 order, the Union home ministry while spelling out the domicile law for the Union territory had kept only level-4 jobs or class-IV jobs reserved for the J&K domiciles while other non-gazetted and gazetted jobs were opened for people from across the country.
Former chief minister and National Conference vice president, Omar Abdullah had described the order issued, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, an “insult heaped on injury”, in an apparent reference to the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its downgrading and bifurcation into two Union territories.
Under the new order, the ministry has amended sub-section 1 and sub-section 2 of Section 3A and Section 5A and Section 8 of the previous order issued to reserves all the jobs for the domiciles.
Jammu and Kashmir law secretary Anchal Sethi confirmed to The Wire that, as per the amendments effected in the order, all categories of jobs, both gazetted and non-gazetted, have now been reserved for J&K domiciles.
Kashmir-based leaders reacted cautiously to the fresh move by the Centre. Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson Tahir Syed said that the amendments were aimed to “calm down the emotions in J&K.”
“Anything which guarantees protection of jobs, land and natural resources in J&K, on the lines of Article 35A (scrapped by the Centre along with Article 370 on August 5, 2019), is a welcome step. But under the new order, the Centre has opened the doors for outsiders to apply for jobs in J&K,” said Syed.
National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi said that the Centre had rushed to amend the earlier order following opposition to the BJP in Jammu. “The backlash from Jammu forced them to tweak the earlier order,” said Nabi.
In the erstwhile state of J&K, Article 35A of the constitution had empowered the local government to define who permanent residents of J&K were and grant exclusive rights to them when it came to jobs and owning land and property. On August 5 last year, the Centre had read down Article 370, scrapping Article 35A.
The Jammu unit of the BJP had conveyed its concerns to the Union government, fearing that the domicile order would lead to a backlash against the party in the region. According to a report in The Hindu, the local unit flagged these concerns to the party’s national leadership and also to the Union home minister Amit Shah on April 3.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav also told the newspaper that the party’s Jammu unit had flagged its concerns, and that “their fears are valid.”
A senior BJP leader from Jammu said that the party was apprehensive of a backlash from people of the region. He said that the party was worried that the move would “handover and reason to our opponents to launch a campaign against the party.”
On Friday, J&K Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari reportedly apprised the Union home minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval about the “shortcomings” in April 1 order.
Bukhari, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah last month after announcing the formation of the party had criticised the April 1 order as a “casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Who are the J&K domiciles now?
The Centre has only amended the framework to reserve all jobs for the J&K domiciles, but there will be no change in the criteria laid out in the April 1 order defining a domicile.
Any person who has resided in J&K for 15 years or has studied for seven years and appeared in Class 10 or Class 12 exams in an educational institution located in J&K will be deemed to be a ‘domicile’. Children of central government officials, officials of central PSUs, autonomous bodies, public sector banks, central universities and recognised institutes of the centre who have served in J&K for 10 years will also get domicile status.
Children of residents of J&K who reside outside the Union territory in connection with employment or business, but whose parents fulfil any of the conditions provided in the order will be entitled to domicile, apart from people registered as migrants by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants).
“Those who are celebrating the amendments may be overlooking the fact that domicile law remains the same while just the scope of employment has been enhanced. Now you are not to compete only within JK but also with those who will be new residents under the new domicile law,” said senior PDP leader, Firdous Tak.
He feared the “worst sufferer” will be people from Jammu, Samba, Kathua and Udhampur districts where the majority of non-residents were living for years.