The Jammu and Kashmir Study Center organized a global webinar on the topic, Positive Effects of the Domicile Policy in The Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, on the sidelines of the ongoing 45th session of United Nations Human Rights Council, highlighting a vital change in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Speakers at the global event included Major Gaurav Arya (Rtd), Senior consulting editor for strategic affairs, Republic Media Network; Dr Surinder Kaul, founding member of Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora; Yana Mirchandani, Editor-in-Chief, The Real Kashmir News Channel; Manu Khajuria, Founder, Voice of Dogras; Praveen Gupta, Coordinator, Friends of India – Colorado, and Radhika Gill, state-level athlete and Human Rights activist.
The event discussed the positive effects of amendment of Article 370 in J&K on 5 August, 2019. Along with the amendments, the state was bifurcated into two union territories. These led to changes in citizenship laws that had marginalized communities like West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs), Gurkhas, Valmiki Dalit community and children of Kashmiri women married outside J&K. These communities have now become eligible for many rights including getting domicile certificate of J&K.
The WPR could vote in the parliamentary elections but not in the erstwhile state elections. The new J&K administration has directed local authorities to issue domicile certificates which is now issued at the Naib Tehsildar level. Even the non-resident Dogras and Pandits from J&K who are residing abroad are eligible for the domicile certificates and are keen on obtaining these.
The panel also discussed the current and upcoming development projects in the two UTs which were not possible without making changes in the special status of the former state. Arya debunked the myths related to the negative impact of abrogation of Article 370 which now assures disenfranchised communities about not losing their lands and employment opportunities.
Kaul spoke on the behalf of internally displaced Kashmiri Pandit community and said that the changes bring a ray of hope for the dispossessed people to return to their homelands. He also highlighted the negligence of media and politicians over the three-decade long displacement of the community.
US-based Gupta, an active member of Friends of India said: “Separatists have been feeding lies to the people of J&K while they bag millions.” He said that politicians who own multiple properties in the state and abroad will now have to justify their wealth and it won’t be easy anymore to forcefully acquire land from the people.
Manu Khajuria expressed her concern regarding the Dogra community in J&K. She said that politically-fueled terrorism impacted the development of all communities. On the abrogation of Article 370, Khajuria said: “Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of Kashmir who initiated the process of state subjects allowed anyone who had resided in the state for 10 years or more to apply for citizen rights. However, with time, malicious politicians misled people and implemented false criteria for one to claim his rights in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Yana Mirchandani exposed the misinformation syndicate against vulnerable Kashmiris. “Separatists are feeding the minds of innocent Kashmiri people that the abrogation of article will lead to changes in the demography of Kashmir, which is a white lie! Like all states of India, when people go to other states, they delve into the culture of that place rather than implementing their own, thus keeping the spirit of that place alive,” Mirchandani said. She added that the amendment has exposed J&K to opportunities from foreign investors which will give a boost to the stagnant economy of the region.
The abrogation of Article 370 has led to much debate globally but the entire Kashmir region is moving on a positive trajectory, as seen in the past one year with economic and social development for the locals as well as restoration of rights of marginalized communities.