The Jammu and Kashmir government said it has issued over 18.52 lakh domiciles certificates as of September 21, over the past three months when the government started issuing the certificates online.
These people were among the 21.99 lakh applications that were received in the 20 districts, 4,97,238 in Kashmir Division and 13,35,643 in Jammu Division, reported the news agency ANI. The rest are reportedly in process.
Of the total number of domicile certificates issued in the Union Territory, 16,27,461 were under the clause of Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) holders and their children, while 1,72,565 were under the clause of state subject applicants and non-state subject applicants and their children.
About 34,473 domicile certificates were issued to students, including 24,508 state subjects and 9,870 non-state subjects, and 19,479 to registered migrants and their children.
The total number of DCs issued to non-state subjects were 59,993, including 17,978 to West Pakistani Refugees, 1,825 to the Balmiki community and 755 to Gorkhas, the administration informed the media.
Earlier in the month, Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz said the people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to know who have been the non-state subject beneficiaries of these certificates in the region, and demanded a 'white paper' on the issue.
He said the people of J&K are entitled to know the particulars of the persons who were not permanent residents, and still got the Domicile certificates.
Issuance of these many certificates within three months has put the Muslim majority of the region in dismay, as they fear that the 'outsiders' would over time reduce them to a minority. The people of the region are also anxious about the demographic changes it will bring in the UT.
The J&K administration started issuing domicile certificates in June this year, over nine months after the abrogation of Article 370 last year. Under the new rules, a tehsildar can issue the certificates. However, a tehsildar is fined ₹50,000 if they fail to issue domicile certificates within 15 days.
As per the changes in the rules, people who can apply include anyone who has resided for 15 years in the UT of J&K, students who have studied for seven years and appeared in class 10th/12th examination in an educational institution located in the region, those registered as migrants and their children, central government officials residing ten years, children of residents of J&K who stay outside the UT fo jobs or business.
Speaking to the HuffPost, Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist and convenor of Srinagar-based Coalition of Civil Society, said the increase of new domiciles would not only downgrade the demographic majority into a minority but also alter the nature of the existing conflict and further put down the concerns that Kashmiris have raised over the decades.
"Down the line, J&K will cease to be a Muslim majority region and this will also alter the complexion of the lingering dispute in and over the erstwhile state," Parvez as quoted.
In defence, Ashok Kaul, J&K spokesperson for BJP said that that the domicile rules will not change the demography. Most domicile applicants are people already living in the region for many years, while only a few outsiders would apply. However, he did not provide an explanation for this assumption.
Haseeb Drabu, in his article the Greater Kashmir states that a powerful law has been replaced with an anaemic legal regime.
The rules, such as qualifying conditions in terms of a number of years (15, 10 and 7 years) are in complete contradiction of the basic principle of the domicile by choice, freedom of choice, and also goes against the international norms and practices, he further writes.
Drabu clearly mentions that residence for domicile rights must be freely chosen and not prescribed or dictated as the government has done, making it compulsory. This also cannot be limited for any defined period or particular purpose but has to be general and indefinite in its future duration. The intention of domicile rights should be to settle down in a place freely and voluntarily.
"An important aspect is how the domicile notification was amended within two days of it being notified. With constitutionalism being replaced by ad hoc and arbitrary rules, the consequence is that these are open to informal private negotiations. Or maybe the other way round! More than anything else, this speaks volumes about how the formal legal and legislative matters like residency and citizenship are being made or unmade based on informal private negotiations. This is an ominous boding not only for Kashmir but for the entire country," Drabu wrote.