Changing face of Indian-administered Kashmir in 2 years since annexation

Anadolu Agency takes look at changes incorporated in Jammu and Kashmir after India revoked autonomy on Aug 5, 2019

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Two years ago on Aug. 5, 2019, India annulled the key provisions of Article 370 and abrogated Article 35 (A) of its constitution, which had guaranteed limited autonomy and protection to the local citizenship law in Jammu and Kashmir.

Though hollowed out over the past seven decades, Article 370 still nominally defined the region as having its constitution, its flag, and two houses of legislature that, unlike all other Indian states, could make laws independent of India’s parliament.

Article 35 (A) barred all outsiders from purchasing property and applying for government jobs in the region to protect the demography of the region is the only Muslim majority state in India.

According to the 2011 census, the region comprises 68.31% of Muslims and 28.43% of Hindus and other minorities.

The state was also divided into the two centrally ruled territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir under a tight military and communications clampdown.

Muslims of the region believe that several new laws introduced since Aug. 5, 2019, cement their fears that the Indian state is determined to change the demography of the region and, in the short run, prevent the Muslim majority from attaining any decisive position of power.

-The following are the laws and policy decisions India has implemented in Jammu and Kashmir over the past two years:

Domicile law: After the abrogation of Article 35 (A) that protected local citizenship rights, now any Indian citizen who has lived in the region for 15 years or has studied in the region for seven years and passed his class 10th or 12th examination is eligible for a domicile certificate. Also, children of Indian government employees who have served in the state for 10 years are eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights. The law applies even if the children have never lived in Kashmir. All domiciles are eligible for government jobs, setting up businesses, and purchasing land and properties.

‘Strategic’ land acquisition: Any land that is deemed ‘strategic’ by Indian armed and paramilitary forces can be acquired from the local government or private owners without any scrutiny by the civilian administration.

Setting up Industrial Corporation: Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Development Corporation was set up with vast powers apparently for “the rapid and orderly establishment and organization of industries in industrial areas and industrial estates.” The corporation can acquire and “hold” both “movable and immovable property”.

It can also “lease, sell, exchange or otherwise transfer any property held by it”. The local government is virtually bound to make land available to the corporation, which can then distribute it.

The government also has to consult the corporation in matters of terms and conditions of grants, subventions, loans, and advances. If the corporation cannot acquire land on its own by agreement, it can use the government to invoke a land acquisition law to get it. The corporation can depute a police officer and no court can “take cognizance of any offense relating to property belonging or vested in the corporation”. The government has set aside more than 3,600 acres for new industrial estates to be established in the region. Locals fear these estates could become the outposts of the “settler-colonial project”.

Mineral rights: The business of extracting sand and boulders from rivers and streams has virtually been taken over by outsiders. When Kashmir was under a communications lockdown, non-local contractors who had the advantage of high-speed Internet submitted the majority of the online bids for mineral extraction.

Dismissal of government employees: A panel headed by a top police officer was formed to review cases of employees who could be sacked under a law in the Indian Constitution. This panel would refer the employees it has marked to another government committee, which would issue dismissal orders. So far 11 employees have been sacked using this law. The only remedy available to the sacked employees is an appeal in the high court.

Official language changed

End of Urdu as only official language: Over the past 131 years Urdu was the official language of the region. In September 2020, Hindi, Dogri, English, and Kashmiri were introduced as four additional official languages. In 1889, Maharaja Pratap Singh, the third ruler of the Hindu Dogra dynasty had replaced Persian with Urdu as the court language.

Removal of Kashmir’s national day from the official list: Every year on July 13, Kashmiri across political and ideological affiliations used to recall killings of civilians back in 1931. It was marked the holiday in the official calendar along with December 5, the birthday of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, a popular local leader, who played role in the region’s accession to India in 1947. Both the days were removed from the list of holidays in the official calendar.

Media policy: A new media policy announced last year empowers a mid-level bureaucrat to decide the genuineness of news, whether it is “fake” or passes the government’s test. It holds the threat of removing newspapers violating guidelines from its advertisement list. Several journalists have been booked under an anti-terror law.

Shifting capital abolished: The region used to have two capitals — Srinagar and Jammu for six months each. According to the practice introduced by the Hindu monarchy 149-years ago, the secretariat used to move every six months.

Scrutiny before employment: Applications for government jobs will now face harsher scrutiny. Under new civil service directives, an applicant should have a comprehensive “satisfactory report” from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). At the time of selection, candidates will have to provide details of their social media accounts and details of the political background of a family member or close relative, details of the in-laws, mobile numbers used during the past five years, bank accounts, etc.

No passports for protesters: The CID has issued an order to its staff that they should look into the involvement of a passport applicant in “law and order, stone-pelting and other crimes prejudicial to the security of the state”. It said: “Any subject found involved in any such cases must be denied the security clearance”.

New elected bodies sans powers

District Development Councils: In 2020, the Indian government amended the law and created a form of grassroots local governance. Aimed at strengthening village and district-level governance, the move appeared to not allowing a decisive legislative handle to the elected representatives. Pro-India politician and former minister, Naeem Akhtar, likened the move to “total depoliticization so that there is no central collective voice”. The aim, he said, is to “sub-divide, overlap, create layer after layer, so that nobody would know who is in charge”.

Property tax: Local administration has been empowered to levy taxes on land and buildings within municipal areas. A similar move by the then-elected government in 2010 had to be shelved after opposition. The political strife for the past 30 years has wreaked havoc on the region’s economy and the lockdown post-Aug. 5, 2019 resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. In such a situation, local businesses and politicians view the property tax as punishment.

Indian Flag: Hoisting of the Indian flag on all government buildings has been mandatory.

Division of Wakf: The autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir allowed the local government to manage the affairs of large properties that belong to the shrines. The local Wakf body took care of such trusts without any sectarian considerations. The government last year announced a Wakaf Board each for the Sunni and Shia sects.

Delimitation of redrawing boundaries of assembly seats: A Delimitation Commission was set up last year to redraw the electoral constituencies of the Jammu and Kashmir region besides Arunachal Pradesh (claimed by China), Assam and Manipur, and Nagaland. But a year later, when its term was extended by one year, it was mandated to redraw assembly segments of Jammu and Kashmir only. Local politicians have expressed fears that the Indian state is likely to provide the Jammu region, which has a Hindu majority, an advantage in the exercise, by according more seats to the region. The result, they fear, would be the more electoral disempowerment of Muslims in Kashmir Valley and other Muslim majority regions.


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