India’s new domicile law for occupied Kashmir has been met by a chorus of criticism from inside and outside the country. Under the new law, the Indian citizens, who have lived in the disputed regions that formed what India referred to as Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years, can officially make the region their domicile on government documents. A second condition applies to those who have lived in the territory for seven years and appeared in either class 10 or 12 examinations from a local school or college. Meanwhile, government officers and employees of government education institutes and government-owned companies are all eligible for the change if they have lived in the region for 10 years.
Kashmiris are accusing Modi of “demographic flooding” to change the face of the region, and they are correct. Modi doesn’t even need citizens to wilfully move there, given that his recent policies have killed the local economy. He can just turn thousands of government employees into Kashmiris overnight. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday strongly condemned the Narendra Modi government’s continued illegal efforts to alter the demography of the disputed territory. The Prime Minister has rightly called the new law a “violation of all international laws and treaties”. He also called out India’s passage of the law at a time when the country — and in fact the whole world — is under a curfew due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Foreign Office had also noted that India’s has been trying to change the “demography and distinct identity” of Kashmir for a long time. Modi is clearly using the pandemic as cover to avoid protests at home and abroad against his Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva agenda. And even though the Foreign Office has called on the United Nations and the world to take notice and hold India “accountable for its persistent violations of international law”, it is unfortunately clear that with Covid-19 ravaging daily life in every major country, world leaders have bigger domestic issues on their plates. By the time they can turn their focus back on international matters, it will likely be too late for Kashmiris.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2020.
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