Stateless people’s woes in J-K

Devsagar Singh

Decades of turmoil and bloodshed have made Jammu and Kashmir insensitive. Why else would there be such a divide on the issue of granting domicile certificates to some 20,000 families who crossed over to India from Pakistan in the aftermath of partition in 1947?

While Kashmir centric parties such as National Conference and separatist groups like Hurryat are opposing tooth and nail the state government’s decision to grant domicile certificates to these hapless people, the BJP is supporting it. Reports suggest that the situation is getting communalized.

Most of the 20,000 odd stateless families are Hindus and settled down in the Jammu region. Curiously, the opposition is being voiced from the Kashmir region. The Kashmir parties are claiming that the grant of domicile certificates will change the demographic character of the state. This claim, however, falls flat as share of Muslims and Hindus in J and K population remains almost the same in 1961 and 2011 censuses.

According to official statistics, in 1961 Muslims with a population of 24,32 lakh constituted 68.31 percent of the state’s population of 35.60 lakh, while Hindus numbering 10.13 lakh made up 28.45 per cent. Half a century later, the census conducted in 1961 showed that the Muslim population stood at 85.67 lakh (68.31 per cent) out of the total population of 125.41 lakh. The population of Hindus remained at 35.66 lakh (28.43 per cent).

It is clear, thus, that the demographic changes have not taken place as a result of the Pakistani migrants. It is not for no reason that the dominant PDP agreed to grant domicile certificates to these people. Before the coalition government was formed with the BJP, the issue was reportedly settled.

Leave aside politics. It is a human rights issue. It is in the fitness of things, therefore, that National Conference should lend its support to the decision in the name of human rights and not play politics. It is said that even the grand patriarch of the party, towering Sheikh Abdullah, had soft corner for these families.

What is worrisome is that people in the Jammu region, mostly supporters of BJP, are now raising the issue of Rohingya Muslims of Burmese origin who have settled down in the Jammu and Kashmir state. It is obviously a counter to the Kashmiri parties who are opposing the domicile move. This will only complicate the situation. It is an issue of human rights for both the Pakistani origin Hindus and Myanmarese Muslims and must be treated as such.

The present issue of grant of domicile certificates should be seen only from the prism of human rights. Any other angle will only harm the fragile state fabric. J and K is already suffering from interference of a hostile neighbor. This suffering will only exacerbate if a communal twist is given to the situation. There have been obvert and covert attempts from across the border all these years to communalise the situation in J and K. Already much harm has been done.

The responsibility lies with both the dominant PDP and partner BJP to tackle the situation. Perhaps greater burden lies with the BJP, the party ruling the country. If it does not rein in its cadre in the Jammu region, situation may deteriorate. Hawkish elements need to be controlled. The Congress party may be down in the region at the moment but certainly not out. It will be wise to take them along on this issue.

PDP has its own problems being a Kashmiri mainline party. Nevertheless, Mehbooba Mufti deserves credit for the move. At a time when her party has been on the receiving end for quite some time, it needed political courage to take up a contentious issue like the domicile certificates. Conversely, the National Conference, her arch rival, is out to create trouble. The NC’s nationalistic credentials have come in for questioning. It is clear that NC is taking sides to fish in the troubled waters.

National Conference has often teamed up with the central leadership of both parties –BJP and Congress—as coalition partner in running the central government. It is time both the BJP and Congress prevail upon the NC leadership in Kashmir not to create trouble in the state by aligning with separatists on the issue of granting domicile certificates to stateless people of J and K. (IPA)  

Tuesday, 3 January, 2017