• Ambiguity over safeguarding land and jobs worries J&K people

    Suhail Bhat

    January 24, 2020

    Image Courtesy: Reuters

    Last month, a job advertisement of Jammu and Kashmir High Court appeared in the newspapers inviting applications for 33 posts from across the country. With Article 370 intact, the advertisement would have not bothered the people of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. It would have been a routine notification. But now, it has given them a whiff of the future without the Article 370 or 35 A—which barred outsiders from owning a property or applying for a job in the erstwhile state.

    The advertisement was withdrawn after criticism from the opposition political parties, mainly from Jammu region, whose reaction to the abrogation of the special status on August 5 has been subdued. Sensing growing dissent against the move, the government announced that an appropriate safeguards would be extended to the people.

    However, people in the Valley remained silent over the issue with some of them still carrying the feeling of revulsion against what they call ‘infringement of rights’. Nonetheless, many showed willingness to oppose the move at all costs. Others, who have accepted the decision despite considering it unjust, wanted the safeguards to remain in place. “Our main shield has been removed, other things won’t work now. They have stripped us naked. What else do they want now? If they want to kill us, [they should] throw us into fire and burn us,” vented Riyaz Ahamd, a local from South Kashmir.

    The experts too feel that Kashmiris aren’t exactly vocal about this issue. “Although we know that the Kashmiri voice is dormant today and it is not expressing much, Jammu has taken a lead. It is because of their voices that they [administration] realised that something had to be done. The people from Jammu are also feeling that they have been exposed to a much larger world of competition all of a sudden. It is because of their reconsideration that some intervention might be going on. And it is because of this that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir is under pressure,” said Professor Noor Baba, a political commentator while speaking to NewsClick.

    He, however, suggested that people should try to protect whatever safeguards can be in place. “People might want 35A or Article 370 back, but that is not in the offing. We must have a strategy of our own. We should not lose everything,” he said.

    “Allowing people from the whole country will be detrimental for the interests of the people here. It’s not a welcome preposition for the youths aspiring for jobs here. They are in large numbers,” he said.

    The government announced in Rajya Sabha on December 11 that it would not bring any legislation along the lines of Article 371 for protection of land and property in J&K. This has set the stagnant water into motion, as the idea of living without any safeguard to protect their jobs and land made people feel vulnerable. This is why the ambiguity regarding the new promise of safeguards is also raising many questions.

    After August 5, the government has made several comments regarding preserving identity, culture, land and jobs of the people, but nothing has been done so far. “Recently, Ram Madhav said that they would safeguard the jobs, land and even the culture of the state. But the very next day, the High Court issued a job advertisement wherein applications were invited all over the country. If the government is promising something, they should deliver. If they want to develop the state, they should secure the future of the youth first,” said Rajesh, a local of Jammu.

    Many are unhappy with the fact that locals are going to have to share their jobs with a large aspirant base. Majid Ahmad, who holds a doctorate in environmental science, told NewsClick that he fears losing his job. “They are contemplating introduction of guest faculty in the colleges and it can affect my livelihood. There has to be a safeguard to secure our jobs and ensure that the locals do not become victims of the competition,” he said.

    The mounting pressure has led to the Jammu and Kashmir administration sending a proposal to the Centre to finalise modalities for issuing domicile certificates to residents of the UT—based on the pattern of neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.

    New political bait

    Even as the leadership of the major political parties continues to be under preventive custody, a potential third front is emerging, comprising eight former MLAs in Kashmir. They are demanding provisions of domicile and jobs security. “We have made it clear that our right to land and jobs needs to be protected. That is the reason we came forward. If we sit idle for the next six months, our lands and jobs will be gone by then. What will we do then?” questioned former MLA Altaf Bukahri said.

    However, some people feel that the issues of domicile and jobs can be used as a political bait by the Centre. “Our demands hardly matter to them. They have a blueprint ready, which they are going to follow. Had they been serious about the people here, they would not have abrogated the special status,” said Fayaz Ahmad, a local from Shopian, while speaking to NewsClick. He added that there is no political space available in the UT now, and the promise of safeguards is perhaps the ruling party’s only potential plank.

    Echoing his views, Akbar Lone, parliamentarian from the National Conference, told NewsClick that the politicians would use these issues for their political gains and their party rejects it. “This is not our issue. We have only one issue. What we have lost on August 5 should be returned to us. Whatever was there in [Article] 370 should be protected. That is not accepted. I think they will use it for their benefit. It would not provide any relief to the people,” he said.

    The supporters of the separatist political sentiment said that revoking of the Article has given credence to their ideology. “Earlier, there were apprehensions that if people do not participate in elections, they would be misrepresented. What did they receive by participating in the elections now? People opened their hearts and received nothing. Even the leaders who represented them are behind the bars. How would they justify this to the world? They have crumbled their own constituency here,” said a local, who did not wish to be named.

    First published in Newsclick.

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