New Delhi: With over 6,600 applicants, a majority of retired soldiers and officers from the Gorkha community have got the domicile certificates in the past one week since the Jammu & Kashmir administration started issuing them, according to a report by Times of India.
The document now allows them to buy property and apply for jobs in the Union Territory, which priorly pertaining to Article 370 and 35 (A) was not possible.
“More than 5,900 certificates have already been issued,” said Vijay Kumar Sharma, additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue), Jammu to reporters.
In Kashmir, about 700 certificates have been issued, many of them former Gorkha soldiers and officers.
“In my tehsil alone, there are nearly 2,500 from the Gorkha community who had served in the Indian Army and their families who got domicile (about 3,500 have applied). There are quite a few from the Valmiki community also,” said Dr Rohit Sharma, tehsildar of Bahu in Jammu.
Valmiki community members were brought to the state in 1957 from Punjab after local sanitation workers went on a strike. It was the protest mostly by four groups — Gorkha servicemen (from the Gorkha community who have been living here since 150 years), Valmikis, West Pakistan refugees and women who had married outside J&K – that had been at the centre of the decision to expand domicile criteria in the Union Territory.
The domicile rules had been notified by the J&K administration on May 18, with a rider that issuing officers (tehsildars in this case) who did not provide certificates in 15 days would be penalised Rs 50,000. Non-locals who had lived in J&K for 15 years, their children, officers with central government and central institutions and anyone who has studied in J&K for seven years and appeared in the Class X or XII exams became eligible.
The applications have kept coming in — at least 33,000 so far.
“We get an average of 200 applications a day,” an official said. The issuing of the domicile certificates started last week on June 26, when an IAS officer from Bihar, Navin Kumar Choudhary, who had served the J&K government for 26 years became the first senior non-local officer to get a domicile certificate.
The former soldiers see this as a ‘recognition of a lifetime spent protecting the country’.
“My father served in 3 JAK Rifles, I served in 2 JAK Rifles. My son Shiva is in 7 JAK Rifles. We were always proud Indians even though people would say our ancestors were born in Nepal,” said Chaman Lal, a 62-year-old retired officer. “We knew there would be justice.”
However, in the wake of the abrogation of the semi-autonomous status and now non-locals being issued with the domiciles, anxiety amongst the locals with regards to a demographic change has been very evident.
Parties such as the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, the People’s Conference, and the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement have objected to the government’s move in this matter, having described the move as an ‘attempt to alter the demographics of the valley’.
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