• Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 07:56 pm

Modi's settler master plan for Indian Kashmir

  • Published at 10:45 am August 29th, 2020
Web_Kashmir conflict
Kashmiri residents throw stones towards Indian security forces during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the government, in Srinagar, August 10, 2019 Reuters

On August 5, 2019, Modi's government revoked articles in the Indian constitution that guaranteed Kashmir's partial autonomy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is changing Indian Kashmir's residency laws for the first time since 1947, in a bid to snuff out any challenge to the disputed territory belonging to India.

Drawing comparisons with Israel's "settler" tactics in the Palestinian Territories, Modi's Hindu nationalist government aims to change the demographic makeup and identity of the Muslim-majority region, critics say.

AFP looks at the background, what the new rules are and their implications for the area's 14 million population.

What has Modi done in Kashmir so far?

The Himalayan former princely state has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.

In the Indian-administered part a conflict between separatist rebels and government forces has killed tens of thousands since 1989, mostly civilians.

More than 65% of the population is Muslim. In the Kashmir Valley, the main centre of the rebellion, it is close to 100%.

On August 5, 2019, Modi's government revoked articles in the Indian constitution that guaranteed Kashmir's partial autonomy and other rights including its own flag and constitution.

A huge accompanying security operation saw tens of thousands of extra troops -- adding to 500,000 already there -- enforce a siege-like curfew. Thousands were arrested and telecommunications were cut for months.

Jammu & Kashmir state was demoted to a union territory governed directly from New Delhi, while the Ladakh region was carved out into a separate administrative area.

Creating such new "facts on the ground" in Kashmir has long been advocated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the hardline Hindu parent organization to Modi's BJP party.

The move sent a further shudder through India's 200-million Muslim minority and defenders of its secular traditions, who fear Modi wants to create a Hindu nation -- something he denies.

"What I see unfolding is a Hindu settler colonial project in the making," Mona Bhan, associate professor of anthropology at Syracuse University who has long researched Kashmir, told AFP.

What happened to Kashmir's special rules? 

Modi's government tore up Kashmir's special residence rules dating back to 1927 which had ensured only permanent residents could own land and property, secure government jobs and university places and vote in local elections.

Now a raft of different categories of people from anywhere in India can apply for domicile certificates, giving them access to all the above.

These include those living in Kashmir for 15 years, who include around 28,000 refugees who fled Pakistan and as many as 1.75 million migrant labourers -- most of whom are Hindus.

In addition, civil servants who have worked in Kashmir for seven years and their children, or students who have taken certain exams, also qualify for domicile status.

The changes are "the most drastic imposed since 1947," Siddiq Wahid, a historian and political analyst, told AFP. "It was done with the intent to open the gates to demographic flooding."

What do locals have to do? 

Locals too now have to apply for the new "domicile certificates" in order to qualify for permanent resident rights.

To get this, they have to produce their Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC), cherished documents valid since 1927, which then become worthless.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, an engineering graduate said young Kashmiris were in effect being forced to give their political loyalty to India in exchange for a livelihood.

"They say, you want a job, OK, get the domicile document first," he said.

Is anybody happy? 

A few people. Bahadur Lal Prajapati, born in Indian Kashmir to Hindu refugees who fled Pakistan during its first war with India over Kashmir seven decades ago, is finally an official resident and has "never been so happy."

"We got the right to live in this part of India as citizens after 72 years of struggle," Prajapati, 55, told AFP from his home in Jammu, the Hindu-dominated district of the region.

One of the first people to receive the new domicile certificate was Navin Kumar Choudhary, a top bureaucrat from the Indian state of Bihar who worked in Kashmir for many years.

Photos on social media of Choudhary proudly holding the certificate sparked huge anger among Kashmiris but delight among Modi's supporters.

What happens if people complain?

Some 430,000 new domicile certificates have been issued -- despite the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear how many of them are to people from outside and how many to locals.

Many locals are refusing to swap their old documents, even though this makes life harder. Some do it in secret for fear of censure from their neighbours.

Wary of being labelled "anti-national" by the authorities many Kashmiris are also scared to speak out openly. Some are deleting their Twitter accounts.

"It's a travesty that I have to compete with outsiders for citizenship rights in my own homeland," said a student -- who also wished also to remain anonymous out of fear of problems with the authorities.

58
56
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail