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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order 2020 (the ‘Order’) issued by the Government of India, which amends legislation and repeals 29 laws that previously granted the rights of employment, land acquisition and political representation exclusively to the indigenous population of Jammu and Kashmir. The Order allows for substantial modifications in the demography of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure the Indian government can exert greater control over the region, previously granted special status under the Constitution of India. Following this on 10 May, the Supreme Court of India refused to restore 4G internet services in the union territory.
IBAHRI Director, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, commented: 'The IBAHRI recently called upon the government of India to lift restrictions on internet services in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, further restrictions have been placed upon the rights of the region’s citizens in an effort to exert further control over the region. The new Presidential Order is a deeply worrying attempt to undermine the rights of the Muslim-majority citizens by permanently altering the demographic makeup of the region.'
The Order has been enforced under the mandate provided by Section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which came into effect last year and split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The Order primarily grants domicile status in the region to non-indigenous persons. Section 35A of the Indian Constitution previously allowed Jammu and Kashmir’s state legislature to define who shall be ‘permanent residents’ and grant them special rights and privileges, but with this Presidential Order the special considerations afforded to the disputed region under the Constitution are removed. This has become a source of deep anxiety for residents of the Muslim-majority region, who fear that the central government aims to weaken their rights and representation. Presently, Jammu and Kashmir has one of the highest concentrations of Muslim-minority individuals in India. Such governmental action is in pursuance of the August 2019 abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, from the Constitution of India, which previously guaranteed Jammu and Kashmir special status, instituted by the government to strip away the enhanced autonomy granted to the Kashmiri populace and exercise a higher degree of control over the disputed region.
Clause 3A and Clause 5A of the Order specifically allows for sweeping modifications in the region’s demography. Clause 3A seeks to grant domicile status to a wide range of Indian citizens, including:
Clause 5A of the order has allowed domiciles access to right of employment into government jobs.
IBAHRI Co-Chair and immediate past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, stated: ‘The current Indian government has increasingly encroached upon the rights of citizens in Jammu and Kashmir. It is disappointing that the Supreme Court of India have denied the need to immediately remove internet restrictions in the region to guarantee vital access to information for citizens and medical professionals combating Covid-19 cases. It is equally disappointing that the authorities have used this time, whilst international attention is diverted during the pandemic, to introduce a Presidential Order which will significantly reduce the majority of the Muslim population in the area.’
Presently, the government is encouraging major private sector companies to invest in the region, which implies that an ever-growing number of persons will be allowed domicile status in Jammu and Kashmir in the near future. In the long term, such action will dilute political representation of the indigenous population as voting rights shall be granted to the newly domicile non-indigenous population. Locals will also experience a significant reduction in employment opportunities available to them. On a societal level, such overarching changes in the demographic outlook of the region may also lead to a systemic erosion of the cultural ethos of Kashmir, otherwise known as ‘kashmiriyat’.
Notes to the Editor
For further information please contact:
Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
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