Here’s why the Centre amended the J&K domicile order
In the earlier version notified on Tuesday evening, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had reserved only subordinate posts for the domiciled residents. The revised order makes jobs in the UT administration out of bounds for non-residents of J&K.
The Centre amended its domicile order for the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) late Friday evening because of resentment among youth, concerns raised by the Jammu unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and vociferous opposition by the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), people familiar with the development said.
In the earlier version notified on Tuesday evening, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had reserved only subordinate posts for the domiciled residents. For other jobs in J&K UT, which was formed on October 31, 2019, after the government on August 5 revoked the special status granted under Article 370 of the Constitution to the erstwhile state, people from any part of the country could apply.
The revised order makes jobs in the UT administration out of bounds for non-residents of J&K.
There has, however, not been any change to the rule that will treat people from outside the UT, who have been residents for 15 years, as domicile residents. The notification also extended domicile rights to central government employees who have served in the state for 10 years and their children.
Several backchannel negotiations took place before the Centre revised its domicile order late Friday evening.
JKAP chief Altaf Bukhari met both Union home minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Friday to register his protest against the domicile order. He conveyed his party’s reservations to the order and demanded that all jobs should be reserved for J&K residents. He also told them that the move would deal a big blow to his efforts to help the people to look beyond Article 370.
Bukhari, who launched his party in early March, had promised to work towards restoring J&K’s statehood and ensuring domicile rights of people in jobs and education.
He, as the head of a 24-member JKAP delegation, had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah separately with a list of demands.
The top leadership had assured the delegation that the government would take all steps to ensure economic development of J&K, concerns over demographic changes, delimitation exercise and grant of state domicile would be addressed, a JKAP leader said on condition of anonymity.
The MHA’s order on Tuesday triggered howls of protests in J&K. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the order was an “insult heaped on injury”, referring to the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution.
The BJP’s Jammu unit had also conveyed to the party high command the growing unrest among the youth over the domicile policy.
BJP leaders from Jammu told HT that the policy of not reserving jobs for domiciled persons in Groups A and B had upset the youth, who felt there was a need to offer some protection to the residents after Article 370 was scrapped following the reorganisation of the state last August.
“There were concerns that by reserving jobs only in Scale 4, the youth in both the Jammu and Kashmir regions could lose out on employment avenues. In Jammu, where job opportunities are particularly limited, the youth felt betrayed that after the abrogation of Article 370 the Union government has failed to keep its promise of ensuring development in the region,” said a senior functionary of the BJP’s Jammu unit.
Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary, who has been in charge of the UT, briefed the party high command, including Shah, of the sentiment on the ground, as the chorus for amending the order grew, according to people aware of the developments.
“A meeting was held, where Madhav apprised the high command of the resentment brewing among the youth. The government was forced to take a call to take corrective measures. However, there was some concern among a section of leadership over revising the order,” the functionary said.
“The government has acted keeping in view the large scale unemployment problem in J&K. In the UT, thanks to decades of mismanagement by successive governments, employment avenues became limited.
Once the situation improves, job opportunities will also grow. At the moment the government’s decision will help address the unemployment problem in Jammu region as well as Kashmir Valley,” Madhav said.
A second party functionary also from Jammu said some leaders in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fount of the BJP, were also against reservation in jobs limited only to the domiciled residents. “They felt that by imposing reservation, it would mean a replay of the conditions that existed when Article 35A was in force,” the second functionary said.
The second BJP functionary also said that the government will take a measured view of the domicile issue for the purpose of purchase of land. “Commercialisation of land for real estate purposes won’t be allowed. But if someone needs land for setting up of industry or for trade and commerce that can be considered.”
The amended domicile policy has come as a shot in the arm for Bukhari, who has renewed his pledge to urge the Centre to review the law in its entirety to remove the remaining loopholes till it satisfies the aspirations of people of J&K.
“We’ll continue to struggle till other hostile sections in the law such as mandatory tenure for non-natives to reside in J&K and cut-off dates to qualify for the domicile are not rectified as per the demands of our people,” Bukhari said.
He also appealed to all the parties to rise above the partisan interests and jointly fight for the rights of the people. “We can have differences with each other on political grounds. But, this is not an appropriate time for mudslinging against each other,” Bukhari said.