The Central government is considering a 15-year-residency requirement for people living outside Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to get government jobs, attend courses in public colleges and qualify for land ownership in the two Union Territories.
The step is aimed at bringing uniformity to Indian citizens across the country and preventing opposition politicians from spreading false propaganda about the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Indian daily Indian Express reported.
Its primary objective, according to official sources, is to assuage the concerns of residents of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, about being denied benefits, and fearing such will be offered to people from other parts of India who may settle in the region, in the future.
In government circles, the 15-year minimum residency norm for non-residents of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, to attain residency status and other benefits in the two Union territories is felt to be justified.
It relates to the 5 August government move to revoke the special quasi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and divide it into two separate federally-administered Union Territories (UTs) on 31 October.
The residence norms will initially apply to central government officials and their children, besides students from other states and UTs after they clear their high school-level examinations in Jammu and Kashmir or Ladakh.
This is the second time that a residency norm proposal for the Kashmir region is under consideration.
Historically, it may be recalled that Hari Singh, the last king of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir state, had issued a similar notification on 27 June 1932.
At that time, the requirement was ten years of mandatory and continuous residence for “foreign nationals” before they could buy land or be considered subjects of the state.
That notification was eventually replaced by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1954. It defined any person who had lawfully acquired immovable property before 14 May 1954 and was a resident in the state for no less than ten years as a permanent resident.
That amended Act deprived thousands of refugees from what is now West Pakistan the right to settle down in Jammu province after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947.
India’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act has triggered widespread protests across the country.
As per the government’s claim, the Act is aimed at granting Indian citizenship to religiously persecuted non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered India on or before 31 December 2014.