Reality dawns on Jammu
Calls for the grant of domicile status to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the restoration of its statehood are gathering momentum in Jammu, where many had fiercely backed the constitutional changes effected on August 5.
Leading from the front are Jammu’s lawyers. The Kathua Bar Association claims to have written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the provision of domicile status, similar to the one available to permanent residents of Himachal Pradesh.
Under the earlier constitutional arrangement marked by Article 370 and Article 35A, people of Jammu and Kashmir had exclusive rights over land, government jobs and scholarships.
Under a domicile scheme, local people will receive preference in government jobs while outsiders will be able to buy land but only if they have resided in Jammu and Kashmir for a specified period, for instance, 15 years.
Kathua Bar president Ajat Shatru Sharma has said in a statement that the BJP should “clear its stand as early as possible on the issue of granting domicile status on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh to the residents of J&K”.
Sharma told The Telegraph that domicile status should be granted only to those Indian citizens who have lived here continuously for 20 years. “The government should also give preference to residents in government jobs,” he said.
Sharma said there could be “rapid conversion of agricultural land for commercial use” if no restrictions were placed on outsiders buying land.
He claimed the government had given a commitment about restoring full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, now reduced to a Union Territory, and should honour it.
Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries president Rakesh Gupta too demanded the provision of domicile status. “Serious people alone should be welcomed and not buyers and sellers of land like real estate agents,” he said.
Jammu’s lawyers, who proudly call themselves “nationalist”, are already on an indefinite strike against the government decision to transfer from the judiciary to the revenue department the power to register land documents, as in the rest of India.
This means the paperwork will now be done by revenue officials rather than the lawyers, hundreds of whom will be left virtually jobless. The move is the outcome of the extension of a central act to Jammu and Kashmir following the revocation of its special status.
The call for the indefinite shutdown came from Jammu Bar Association president Abhinav Sharma, who is also a BJP spokesperson.
Still, Jammu’s lawyers bodies and the industry chamber recently issued a statement saying they “fully back the Centre’s decision to scrap the state’s special status”.