Pakistan rejects 'illegal' grant of occupied Kashmir domicile certificates to Indian nationals

Updated June 27, 2020

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Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui. -- Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan
Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui. -- Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan

Pakistan on Saturday rejected the Indian authorities' move to grant domicile certificates of Indian-occupied Kashmir reportedly to thousands of Indian nationals, terming it a part of New Delhi's attempt to change the demographic structure of the disputed region.

As many as 25,000 non-locals have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of a move to disturb the demographic profile of the region, Anadolu Agency reported.

The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which until last year were reserved only for the local population.

The documents issued to non-Kashmiris, including Indian government officials, under the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), 2020, are "illegal, void and in complete violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and international law including the 4th Geneva Convention", Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a statement.

She said the latest action by New Delhi is "a vindication of Pakistan’s consistent stance" that a major intention behind India's move to annex occupied Kashmir on August 5 last year was to change the demographic structure of the region and "turn Kashmiris into a minority in their own land".

"This has long been [a] part of the RSS-BJP’s 'Hindutva' agenda," she added, saying the Kashmiris too have rejected the "bogus" domicile certificates.

Farooqui said the Indian government by changing the demographic make-up of occupied Kashmir intends to undermine its residents' exercise of their right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN supervision.

Through these actions, it also seeks to further perpetuate India's occupation of the Valley while continuing other rights abuses including continued restrictions on daily life, an "excruciating" military crackdown, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detentions, the spokesperson noted in the statement.

"India should know that its suppression has not been able to break the will of the Kashmiri people in the past and it will not succeed in doing so in the future," the press release said.

The FO spokesperson called on the UN and the international community to intervene to stop India from altering the demographic structure of occupied Kashmir "by settling people from India in a territory that it has illegally occupied and the status of which remains disputed".

"The recipients of the domicile certificates must know that India has no legal authority to bring in and settle people from outside IOJ&K," she stressed, adding that international law bars New Delhi from implementing such actions.

Farooqui said India "must be urged" to immediately cancel all the domicile certificates issued to non-Kashmiris, revoke unlawful rules aimed at further disenfranchising the Kashmiris by effecting a demographic change, and comply with its international legal obligations through implementation of the relevant UNSC resolutions.

New law notified amid Covid-19 lockdown

When India revoked the semi-autonomous status of occupied Kashmir last year, it also scrapped the local special citizenship law, guaranteed under Article 35-A of the Indian constitution. The law barred outsiders from settling and claiming government jobs, to maintain the demographic balance of the region.

On Friday, a picture of the domicile certificate issued to Navin Kumar Choudhary, a bureaucrat originally from the Indian state of Bihar, went viral on social media.

In April, amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the Indian government notified domicile laws for occupied Kashmir, making an unspecified number of outsiders eligible for residency and jobs.

According to the new law, any person who has lived in the region for 15 years, or has studied there for seven years and passed their class 10 or class 12 examination is eligible for the domicile.

Also eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights are the children of Indian government employees who have served in the region for 10 years or more.

Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim-majority character of the region.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity, a government official said as many as 33,000 people had applied for the domicile certificates since May 18, when the rules were notified. Of them, 25,000 have been granted citizenship rights, he added.

Some 32,000 applications were filed in the 10 districts of Hindu-majority Jammu.

In the Kashmir region, which is about 96.4 per cent Muslim, 435 certificates have been issued so far, out of a total 720 applications.