New domicile certificates amplify anxieties about demographics in Kashmir

Image courtesy: newsclick

Gowhar Geelani,

On July 5, the Jammu & Kashmir administration declared that over 6,600 applicants — an overwhelming majority of them retired soldiers and officers from the Gorkha community — have been granted the domicile document that permits them to buy land, immovable property and also apply for jobs in the restive region.

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According to Vijay Kumar Sharma, additional deputy commissioner (Revenue Department), Jammu, “More than 5,900 certificates have already been issued.” On the contrary, about 700 domicile certificates have been issued, many of them former Gorkha soldiers, in the Kashmir Valley.

The issue of domicile is hugely contentious in Kashmir as many fear that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims to engineer a demographic change in J&K for its ideological, civilizational and larger political reasons.

A pall of gloom had descended on the scenic valley of Kashmir when it was officially learned that the region’s administration started the process of granting new domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris. A senior J&K Cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from Bihar, Navin Kumar Choudhary, along with 30,000 individuals have been granted their domicile documents by now.

“This is to certify, Shri Navin K Choudhary son of Shri Deokant Choudhary resident of at present Gandhi Nagar Jammu is a domicile of UT of J&K,” reads the certificate issued by Tehsildar Dr Rohit Sharma, in Bahu area of Jammu. “That the applicant is eligible in terms of the following clause of Rule 5 of the J&K Grant Domicile Certificate (Production) Rules, 2020,” it reads. Choudhary’s certificate has his photograph pasted on it along with the Aadhar card number.

The case of the above-mentioned bureaucrat, currently serving as principal secretary in the agriculture production department, is important as he hails from Bihar and has become a J&K domicile.

As per the new order, individuals who have resided in J&K for a period of 15 years or have studied for seven years or appeared in examinations for class 10th or 12th can be eligible for the grant of a domicile certificate. The eligibility also extends to the West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) registered as migrants under the former state’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.

Minutes after the picture of Choudhary’s domicile certificate went viral and caused panic, the reactions and commentaries followed on social media.


Amit Kushari, a retired IAS officer from J&K cadre, was amused to learn about Choudhry getting permanent resident domicile certificate for J&K under the new setting. “Wah bhai kya baat hai (Wow! What an achievement!) Congrats to Navin & Amita. If a Bihari can get this, a Bong (Bengali) like me could have got it too. I lived in J&K for 37 years and my children passed class 10 & 12 from J&K. But even if that certificate was given to me on a silver plate, how could I take it?” Kushari said.

“That certificate would have been soaked in the tears of my Kashmiri /Jammuite brothers? Unless Delhi grants total autonomy to J&K and my Kashmiri brothers themselves give me the certificate smiling all the way, I would never take it. Woh mere kis kaam ke? (What purpose would it serve?), he wrote on his Facebook timeline.

The retired officer said that he would neither settle down in J&K nor would his children. “If I want to stay there I can live as a loved guest in any Kashmiri or Jammu family. I would love to live in their hearts.” He granted permission to to use his comment.

The retired bureaucrat offers a different perspective on the sensitive issue of permanent residency in J&K.

facebook of Amit Kushari, retd. IAS


This irrefutable reality that the residents from outside J&K are now eligible to become domiciles has caused deep anxiety, more so in the Kashmir Valley and parts of the Chenab and Pir Panjal range in the Jammu province. The majority population now fear that the demographic change is just around the corner.

The region lost its semi-autonomous status and statehood in August last year and subsequently, the Amit Shah-led Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) introduced a domicile order for J&K amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The order is a departure from the earlier constitutional position of J&K. Article 35(A) of the Indian Constitution and Section 6 of J&K Constitution had empowered the state legislature to define a permanent resident of J&K while Article 370 defined the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi. By virtue of Article 35 (A) the J&K Legislative Assembly would define a permanent resident and s(he) would then enjoy certain rights and privileges which included the exclusive right to buy land and immovable property, government employment and scholarships etc.


The original hereditary state subject rules date back to 1927 when the Dogra Maharaja had to face an unrelenting agitation led by Kashmiri Pandits who were apprehensive about losing employment in state service. The Dogra court had introduced a host of administrative reforms that included invalidating Persian as the official language (introduced in 1889) and replacing it with Urdu. The Pandit community was not well-versed with the Urdu language at the time.

In 1927 a new definition of state subject was endorsed by the Dogra Court. All persons born and residing in the state before the commencement of the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh and also all persons who settled therein before the commencement of the year 1885 and have been permanently residing in the country were deemed as state subjects.

From their stiff resistance aimed at protecting the indigenous Kashmiri identity in the late 1920s, a lot has changed in how the narrative of Kashmiri Pandits has played out in the recent past. Their unfortunate departure from the Kashmir Valley in January 1990 to Jammu and elsewhere has become a controversial subject since.

A total of 38,119 Kashmiri Pandit families were registered with the government, of which 24,202 migrated in January 1990. According to official figures, the total number of Pandits stood at 1,50,000 (1.5 lakh) at the time of their flight. Pandits represent less than five per cent of J&K’s total population. At present, the government claims 60,452 families are registered with it, of which over 2,000 families continue to live in the Kashmir Valley while many live in Jammu.

Losing one’s home and hearth is an issue that can never be brushed aside. In March 2010, the J&K government said on the floor of the Legislative Assembly that 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by militants from 1989 to 2004. Recently, a Pandit Sarpanch was killed in south Kashmir.

Former Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla while responding to a question on KPs said in the Assembly that, “219 Pandits were killed in Kashmir from 1989 to 2004. From 2004, no killing of any person from the community [Kashmiri Pandits] took place till now.” He said that 808 Pandit families consisting of 3,445 people had never migrated and still lived in the Valley. Many more have returned since and continue living in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, parts of north and south Kashmir while some have returned to their original villages and towns.

Some Pandits blame the Pakistan-backed militants for their departures while others accuse the then governor Jagmohan of officially ‘facilitating’ the Pandit migration with the objective of crushing the Kashmiri Muslim resistance. While there are arguments both ways, the issue of KP’s homecoming has never been opposed by any political, social or religious group in J&K. All political formations across the ideological divide have been calling for their dignified return.

Though some far-right groups like Panun Kashmir and Roots in Kashmir claim that their community faced an ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’ or even ‘holocaust’. This is far from the truth. Far more Muslims have been targeted by the state and non-state actors like the government-backed Ikhwan than Kashmiri Pandits. This has been documented by local and international human rights groups.

Incidentally, some representatives of KPs recently called on LG Girish Chandra Murmu and hailed domicile order as “historic milestone”, but many KPs are also protesting against it.

On May 21, representatives of KP Welfare Organizations and All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee met the LG at the Raj Bhavan in Jammu to express their “gratitude towards Government of India and J&K Administration for the introduction of new Domicile Law in J&K.” They reiterated that “the removal of Article 370 and Article 35A, which proved to be a stumbling block in the path of development, would take J&K to new heights of growth and development.”

The representatives included Vinod Pandit, Vijay Bakaya, former chief secretary and ex-MLC and Kuldeep Khoda, former director-general of J&K Police.

On the contrary, prominent KPs like author-academic Nitasha Kaul and former Air Vice-Marshall Kapil Kak and many others have vehemently opposed the domicile order as well as abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 (A).

Nonetheless, the facts on the ground stand drastically altered in the new arrangement.

With the introduction of domicile order and in the absence of Articles 370 and 35 (A), people from outside J&K are eligible to acquire a domicile certificate and possess the right to buy land and property provided they meet the required criteria. A “permanent resident” is now replaced with “domicile”. New classes of people have been made eligible for domicile status including migrants, central government employees, armed forces personnel and their children who meet the eligibility criteria.


Cautioning people about the possible dangers to demographics, members of civil society coalitions have started online campaigns against the domicile order and issuance of certificates to non-Kashmiri residents. Besides this, there are calls for social boycott of local officers who are tasked to issue the certificates.

Mubeen Ahmed Shah, former president of joint Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) and a prominent businessman, urged local village/town committees to peacefully protest the new order and also socially boycott the local tehsildars who are tasked to issue the domicile certificates.

Mubeen Shah who was earlier detained during abrogation of Article 370, booked again for sedition

Speaking to, Shah hoped that his call for a social boycott would gather momentum as “it is a peaceful and democratic way to tell the powers that be that all Kashmiris are against the new domicile order. It is also a message for the world that we are not allowed to hit the streets to register our opposition to this order.” He passionately said that “history stands witness that we Kashmiris will never surrender no matter what ploys are used to tame us. Resistance is embedded in our DNA.”

Prior to this, in a detailed post on his Facebook timeline, Shah had said that “All village/mohalla/town committees of Kashmir should come together and make sure that not a single non-local lives in their areas. They should ask all non-Kashmiris to vacate and leave Kashmir. Each and every local committee must do its part.”

“All of these committees should give clear instructions to people that anyone who tries to give space to non-locals will be socially boycotted and anyone who tries to sell land to any non-Kashmiri will be socially boycotted as well as evicted from the area. It’s most important for all Kashmiris to come together at this very important stage and collectively fight against settler-colonialism. It’s now or never. It’s do or die. All of us have to join hands and fight now!”

As his post went viral on social media, Jammu Kashmir police booked him for “sedition”. He has already spent five-month-long detention in Agra Jail and was released under the perceived pressure from the United States.

Meanwhile, the hashtags like #StandWithKashmir and #KashmirRejectsDomicileLaw are being shared on Facebook and Twitter.

The domicile order empowers a tehsildar to issue certificates in the majority of the cases while the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner in the case of migrants. A J&K government officer who fails to issue a certificate to applicants within the stipulated time may attract strict punishment of having to forfeit up to INR 50,000 from the salary.

“They (tehsildars) shouldn’t be allowed to enter into the village/mohalla/town and no one should speak to them or their families or do any kind of work with them. We should think of other efficient measures as well to stop any changes to demographic of Kashmir,” say civil society actors.


According to the 2011 Census, the total population of J&K was 12,541,302 (approx. 1.25 Crore). With the decadal growth, the present population is estimated to be over 15 million. About 70 per cent of the total population in J&K comprises Muslims while there is nearly 97 per cent Muslim population in the Kashmir Valley.

At the time of Partition, the Jammu province too had Muslims as a majority.

According to a report dated 10 August 1948 published in The Times, London, at least “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated — unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border — by the forces of the (then) Dogra State headed by the Maharaja (Hari Singh) in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja acceded to India.

Moreover, an article by writer and Quaker Horace Alexander on 16 January 1948 in The Spectator puts the number of Muslims killed in Jammu at 200,000. In 1941, Muslims formed a 61 per cent majority in Jammu, which was reduced to 38 per cent after the Jammu Massacre. Horace Alexander wrote that the massacre had “the tacit consent of State authority”.

Senior political analyst Muzamil Jaleel told that “the decisions taken by the current regime on August 5 last year and afterwards are all aimed at one single goal: to change the demographic complexion of J&K so that its Muslim majority character is altered permanently.” According to Jaleel, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent body of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), terms the 70 per cent population of J&K as ‘oppressive Muslim majority character’ and a ‘headache for our country since independence’ in its official vision and mission document.


The government on its part is publicising the possible benefits of the domicile certificates. On June 27, Union Minister of State in PMO (Prime Minister Office) and Member Parliament Udhampur-Doda Constituency Jitendra Singh availed his online domicile certificate from Doda, his home district.

According to an official statement, nearly 9,000 certificates have been issued across Doda district until now. Government is also issuing certificates to WPRs and members of Balmiki Samah and Gorkhas “who were residing in J&K for the last more than 70 years.”

Meanwhile, all major regional political parties like the J&K National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, People’s Conference and People’s Movement have opposed issuance of domicile certificates. Agha Ruhullah Mehdi, NC’s chief spokesperson, while demanding revocation of domicile order told that “All the misgivings raised after the domicile laws were changed in J&K are coming to fore with J&K government’s issuance of domicile certificates to non-residents of J&K. The first and foremost casualty of this process will be our jobs and the land holdings which were earlier reserved for the permanent residents of J&K irrespective of their religion or region.” He said that the measure was aimed at “disempowering the permanent residents politically and economically.”