Home Articles A year after abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir is tragedy in making

A year after abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir is tragedy in making

Image courtesy: SabrangIndia

By Firdous Khan

The first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 is around the corner in Jammu and Kashmir. It was on August 5 last year when the erstwhile state of J&K was unilaterally stripped of its semi-autonomous status and was bifurcated into two federally administered Union Territories by the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Centre. What followed was a military clampdown that lasted nearly five months and a complete communications gag, which somehow continues to this day as 4G internet services remain banned.

Since August 5 last year, a lot has changed on the ground. While the Centre justified the move saying it was aimed at full integration of J&K with India. However, on the ground, the situation looks grim and instead of integration, a sense of alienation is gaining ground among the locals against the Indian state.

The latest development that sent shivers down the spine of people in the newly carved Union Territory (UT) of J&K is the case of issuing domicile certificates to non-locals. The issue caught the public eye when an IAS officer of J&K cadre Navin K Choudhury’s domicile certificate was seen doing rounds on the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The same was shared by tens and thousands of people, expressing their anger. The said bureaucrat is originally from Bihar and became the domicile of J&K among 25,000 others.

The decision has been declared unconstitutional and arbitrary by the region’s two political rivals National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while Indian National Congress (INC) has termed it, “morally and ethically wrong move”. It, however, didn’t (for the time being) deter the Bharatiya Janata party-led NDA government in New Delhi to rethink on the matter.

Many people, including the regional political parties, perceive the new domicile law as an attempt to change the demography of the J&K. On the ground, a sense of betrayal and alienation is gaining ground among the locals especially the educated youth of Kashmir Valley. While the demographic change undoubtedly continues to be the biggest and foremost concern of the people, my focus of discussion here is limited to domicile certificates and it impacts on the job market and youth of Kashmir.

For the youth, the ordeal at this point in time should have been looking for employment and development as most of the Indian unemployed youth aspire but the recent move of issuing domicile certificates to outsiders has compelled them to think otherwise.

While a larger group of original inhabitants (natives) have started applying for the domicile certificates, a major lot especially unemployed youth are in no mood to follow suit, citing the decision as tyrannical, the endorsement of which is against their conscience and self-respect.

“We will not apply for the domicile certificate. We were born and brought up here in the Kashmir Valley so how can a piece of paper justify our existence?”, one local told me. He added that why are Kashmiris and again made to surrender in front of such arbitrary diktats from the Indian state? This is totally unjust and below dignity.

“Ase khemo haakh-bate magar jhuko ne kynh (We will eat vegetables instead of meat, but will not bow down our heads). This is our way of resistance, our Satyagraha,” said a group of young graduates.

These youth are not bothered about seeking government jobs. What concerns them most is the safety of their motherland, it’s culture and history.

How the decision has impacted the educated youth?

The J&K in general and the conflict-ridden Valley, in particular, has not seen any recruitment drive since August 5, 2019, when Articles 370 and 35A were unilaterally scrapped by the BJP-led central government. But the recent recruitment drive initiated by the government in various departments, the registration process of which has already begun, comes as good news to some but a larger faction has decided to abstain from filling the application forms, calling it a lollipop from administration to silence the pro-freedom narrative that has intensified post scrapping of special status.

As per the recruitment notification, only those who are domiciles of J&K can apply. The furnishing of the copy of the domicile certificate under the new law after the selection list issued by the recruitment board has been made mandatory.

Earlier Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) was proof of residence in J&K but after the demotion to UT from a state and loss of special status, it has been replaced by the new domicile law, which defines “domiciles” as those who have been residing in Jammu and Kashmir for a period of 15 years or have studied here for seven years and appeared in Class 10 and 12 examinations in educational institutions located in J&K.

Now since these young men are reluctant to apply for the domicile certificate, without which they cannot get a government job, the question arises what is in store for them? How are they going to survive without a job and what is brewing in their minds?

Although some people are ready to work in the private sector, keeping in view the situation in Kashmir that remains tense due to conflict and insurgency here, there is not much scope in this field either.

Presently these people are in tens, tomorrow they will increase to hundreds and after some time, there will be thousands more. What option are they left with? What will they do if not employed? Will it lead to their radicalisation and ultimately joining militant ranks?

History is witness to one such unfortunate incident – the rigged elections of 1987 which is perceived to be the main reason for decades of violence and the present day insurgency in the Kashmir Valley. Kashmir changed from paradise to hell. Hundreds and thousands of civilians, as well as security personnel, have been killed. Many youngsters were pushed to militancy. The head of Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin was once an aspiring politician but results of 1987 elections forced him to change his way. At present he is in Pakistan heading an outfit, which has been proscribed by the Indian state. Like Syed, many others changed ways and are still disillusioned with the arbitrary moves of the central government.

It is no doubt a matter of grave concern for all of us. People at the helm of affairs have to think about this grim reality. If these educated people are alienated in such a way, a time will soon arrive when they can take decisions that will bring intolerable consequences not only to themselves but their families and the society as well. And before it is too late, we should all wake-up from this slumber and take calculated measures for the brighter future ahead.

Firdous Khan is a journalism student based in Kashmir. He can be reached at [email protected]