Domicile certificate for others, no rehab plan yet for Kashmiri Pandits?

The community has demanded that the gov't first rehabilitate the lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits before it grants outsiders the domicile rights

Kashmiri PanditsImage

The big reason Kashmiri Pandits are now raising their voices against the process of issuing ‘domicile’ certificates to those from other states, is that they sense this is only benefiting a those who already have connections in the government, and fear that will still be left far behind when it comes to getting any benefit out of the scheme.

Kashmiri Pandit leader and Kashmir resident, Sanjay Saraf who is also a spokesperson of the Lok Janshakti Party, has raised the issue in his home state and will soon write to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. “I live here. I do not see any benefit to my people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Valley. I want to know what the government will get out of this,” he asked while speaking to SabrangIndia, from Kashmir. On the road to meet people in the area Saraf has stressed that the exercise of issuing domicile certificates to senior bureaucrats, before even considering the plight of the locals is “appeasement” of a powerful lobby. “I am writing to the home minister and asking him [to clarify] on the issue. I want to ask what we get out of the domicile certification? How will it benefit my people of Jammu Kashmir, particularly the valley. And what about the rehabilitation of the seven lakh Kashmiri Pandits?” 

The two issues he says are interlinked, as it is the Kashmiri Pandit community that was forced to leave the state at the peak of violence, who needs to be rehabilitated before anyone from any other state is given a domicile certificate. “We supported the scrapping of Article 370 and 35A in J&K, thinking there will be integration. If there is integration now, why is there a need for this? We already had a state subject certificate. No other state has asked for a ‘domicile certificate’, why do we need to stand in line for that,” he asked.

On Saturday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday (June 27) began distributing domicile certificates in the Union Territory (UT). 

Saraf says there is major confusion on the ground now, and people are shocked that the first few domicile certificates were issued to top bureaucrats who already have a privileged life in the Union Territory, “They have an advantage over the locals already. Their children have an advantage over our children already,” he said in reference to the ability to apply for government jobs. Giving an example of job opportunities after getting the domicile adding that in the interview boards of these jobs will be bureaucrats interviewing the children of their peers or seniors, this may put the local candidates at a disadvantage. 

“I believe in one nation, but this can be another point of division and exploitation. There is no domicile certificate needed when I was born here, and am a resident of Kashmir. Why will I need a domicile certificate? What will I get? Will it justify that I am indian? If there is no certificate then are we not indians,” he questioned. Many Kashmiri Pandit families who fled the violence overnight may not even have any ‘proof’ of their domicile. Those of the community born in other states will also not have any, explained a member of the community.

Saraf has clearly said this policy is yet another “tool” the centre had handed over to the National Conference, and the PDP to “to play politics,” in the Union Territory. He refuted the idea of “changing demographics” that both the major political parties of Kashmir are now discussing. According to Saraf, even if 10,000 outsiders are given domicile certificates the demography will not change, but the employment, and land owning opportunities for the locals, both Pandits and Muslims, who are at a disadvantage already, will be fewer. 

“My take is that the Government of India thought of this domicile certificate simply for their bureaucrats, not for the real people of J&K. These bureaucrats have enjoyed a good life in Kashmir for decades. Now they can settle down, retire and then join politics…” he added. 

The union government, said Saraf, was far from any rehabilitation plan for the lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits but were quick to launch the domicile certification. “If Article 370 has ended, why this domicile. If you have to do it, first rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits. You (government) have said you will bring back Pandits through domicile. Confusion is being created in a sensitive atmosphere,” Saraf had said a day ago and maintained that the ground situation was far different from what was being reported. Now even Kashmiri Pandits, the saudis, as well as Muslims, will have to apply for the Domicile certificates. “I don’t mind standing in line for it. But I am already a subject of the state, so tell me how it will benefit me? And if i do not have this certificate am I not an indian,” he asked, not masking his anger.

Saraf clarified that he is sharing his views as a Kashmiri. His party, led by Ram Vilas Paswan incidentally is a partner in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).  He is a Cabinet Minister in charge of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

In July 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ram Madhav, as its national general secretary in charge of Kashmir, had hinted at a rehabilitation plan for the over three lakh Kashmiri Pandits who had been forced to flee the state in the late 80s. “Now there are almost seven lakh of us, where is the rehabilitation plan,” asked Saraf. “If we keep waiting for the situation to be conducive or ‘normal’, we will end up waiting for a hundred years,” he added.

On the ground, Kashmiri Pandit leaders are also upset that the promised ‘development’ has not been implemented yet. “We felt things will change after integration, there is nothing different on the ground even after almost 10 months have passed,” said one.

“This domicile scheme will only lead to the exploitation of the local Kashmiri youth,” added Saraf, “I thought industries will come to Kashmir. We wanted IT and non polluting industries, but nothing has been done. Give us development first, then start a democratic process.” 

On Sunday, an organisation of displaced Kashmiri Pandits had strongly demanded that the domicile certificates process be stopped, till a rehabilitation plan was enacted. “We demand stopping the issuance of domicile certificates until Kashmiri Pandits are rehabilitated in the Valley. It seems that the Government of India is busy in pleasing non-residents and other refugees at the cost of Kashmiri Pandits. The present government had said that the migrant and displaced Kashmiri Pandits will be rehabilitated in 10 districts of the Valley. But so far there has been no movement in this regard. We demand that the government of India immediately come out with the Kashmiri Pandit Rehabilitation Policy,” Satish Mahaldar, chairman of Reconciliation, Relief and Rehabilitation of Migrant Kashmiri Pandits had said in a press conference on Sunday.

“We demand that the government of India must immediately come out with the Kashmiri Pandit Rehabilitation Policy. This should be announced before the issuance of domicile certificates to any person. The process of issuing domicile certificates should be stopped immediately,” news agency IANS quoted Mahaldar as saying. The organisation issued a statement that the government of India has been “consistently failing” them for  decades. “We have hopes from this Modi government, but so far nothing has come out on our rehabilitation policy,” he said.


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