Kashmir News

India grants thousands citizenship rights in Kashmir

By Hilal Mir

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – As many as 25,000 people have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of disturbing demographic profile of the region.

The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population.

Last year on Aug. 5, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of the region, it also scrapped the local special citizenship law, guaranteed under Article 35 (A) of the Indian Constitution.

The law was barring outsiders including Indian nationals from settling and claiming government jobs, to maintain the demographic balance.

On Friday, a picture of the domicile certificate issued to Navin Kumar Choudhary, a bureaucrat originally from the Indian state of Bihar, went viral on social media.

In April this year, amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the government notified domicile laws making an unspecified number of outsiders eligible for residency and jobs.

According to the new law, any person who has lived in the region for 15 years, or has studied in the region for seven years and passed his class 10 or class 12 examination is eligible for domicile certificate.

Also, children of Indian government employees who have served in the state for 10 years are eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights. The law applies even if the children have never lived in Kashmir.

Out of 66, top bureaucrats serving in the region, 38 are outsiders belonging to other Indian states. Many other outsiders serve in various central government institutions like banks, post offices telecommunication facilities, security institutions, and universities.

– Majority of new citizens in Jammu region

Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim majority character of the region.

According to a census conducted by India in 2011, out of 12.5 million total population, Muslims comprise 68.31% and Hindus 28.43% in Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity, a government official said, since May 18, when the rules were notified, 33,000 persons had applied for the domicile certificates. Out of them, 25,000 persons have been granted citizenship rights, he said.

As many as 32,000 applications were filed in 10 districts of the Hindu majority Jammu region. The highest number of 8,500 certificates has been issued in the Doda district, which has a delicate demographic balance, with Muslims comprising 53.81% and Hindus 45.76%.

As many as 6,213 domicile certificates have been issued in Rajouri district, which has 62.71% Muslim population. Authorities have distributed 6,123 citizenship certificates in Poonch, a border district comprising 90.44% Muslim population.

In the Kashmir region, which is about 96.4% Muslim population, 435 certificates have been issued so far, out of the total 720 applications.

As of now, it is not clear how many outsiders, like Choudhary, have been issued domicile certificates. The 25,000 new citizens also include Hindu refugees, who had settled in the region at the time of partition of the sub-continent in 1947. They had migrated from territories, now part of Pakistan. But due to the state’s residency laws and special status they were not granted local citizenship rights.

– Disputed territory

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Drug abuse epidemic in Indian-administered Kashmir

By Nusrat Sidiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Reeling from decades-old political conflict and recently rising cases of COVID-19, Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is also battling an alarming rise in drug abuse.

Coinciding with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking observed on Friday, the Doctors Association in Kashmir asked the public to help combat the deadly menace before it is too late.

“It is baffling and horrific,” Dr. Suhail Naik, the head of the association, told Anadolu Agency.

From 15% heroin abuse recorded in 2016, it has now gone up to 90%, said doctors at a government de-addiction center in Srinagar, the main city in the region.

Data accessed by Anadolu Agency at a de-addiction center also reveals that there has been a surge in the number of patients visiting the center, which operates under the main city hospital.

While 489 drug addicts had visited the out-patient department in 2016-17, a whooping number 3,622 addicts sought prescription between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018, the Indian financial year.

The numbers witnessed a further surge in 2018-19 when 5,113 patients sought medical help.

From April to June 2019, another 1,095 patients, who visited the center reported drug abuse.

Even during the communication clampdown and lockdown period followed by India’s decision to revoke the special semi-autonomous status of the region last year on Aug. 5, there was no decrease in the drug abuse cases.

– Worrisome trend

According to data available with the main Srinagar hospital, it received 3,319 patients from July to November 2019.

“Most of the patients we have been receiving from the last three years are heroin addicts and there is a drastic increase in their numbers now,” said Dr. Yasir Rather, a consulting psychiatrist.

“We have been receiving patients of less than 14 years which is more alarming,” he added.

The more worrisome trend that many patients even after getting treatment once again turn to drugs when they join the society.

At the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Afaan,18, has severe body pain. He is feeling dizzy for over the last 13 hours after quitting heroin.

It is the fifth time that the boy belonging to the border area of Tangdhar, Uri has relapsed back to the heroin abuse and has been admitted to the hospital.

“I want to leave this abuse but it is not letting me come out from it,” said Afaan.

Such patients relapse many times before being admitted for treatment, Dr. Saleem Yousuf dealing with addiction cases told Anadolu Agency.

He said that hard drugs like heroin and cocaine bring permanent changes into the human system, once an individual gets addicted.

“It is not easy to come out of this web,” he said.

– Youth lured into net

Social activists in the region believe that it is a big underground narcotic nexus that targets youth and children.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, a social activist on the condition of anonymity said people especially youth are lured into drug net intentionally with a purpose.

Social and medical experts in the region argue that the best way to deal with the menace is to cut down the availability of drugs. The question, if the security agencies can track down militants, why they are unable to track down peddlers and drug mafia, who have spoiled lives of children?

Dr. Naik said that while the political conflict has consumed many generations in the region, the latest menace of drug abuse is starting to spoil youth and children.

“We need to unmask those faces who are running this drug racket before it is too late and the government must act fast on it,” he said.

108 Kashmir militants killed in 2020 so far

By Hilal Mir

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, police said, bringing the toll of militants killed in 2020 so far to 108.

Vijay Kumar, Kashmir's inspector general of police, said the militancy has been wiped out in southern districts, and the focus is now on northern Kashmir, where the latest gunfight took place.

A commanding officer of an army battalion is among 28 government forces personnel killed during the encounters.

Since January, more than 240 "militant associates" and "over ground workers," the terms police use to describe those suspected of helping militants with logistics and other means, have been arrested, police chief Dilbag Singh told a recent news conference.

Meanwhile, in a first, government forces stopped handing over bodies of the militants to their kin in mid-April.

The bodies are buried in remote northern Kashmir hamlets to prevent large gatherings that funerals attract. Only three to four family members of the fallen militants are allowed to participate in the last rites.

The decision, police say, has been taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has infected 6,422 people in the region, including 88 deaths and 3,818 recoveries.

– Ongoing violence

Despite multiple calls for a cease-fire, violence in the disputed region continues unabated.

In an appeal in March, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged warring parties across the globe to lay down their arms in support of the fight against the pandemic but the situation in the disputed region has worsened with the outbreak.

Regional police sources told Anadolu Agency that 80 of the 108 militants were killed since the virus outbreak on March 20.

– Disputed territory

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions of its Constitution, scrapping the country’s only Muslim-majority state with its autonomy. It was also split into two federally administered territories.

Simultaneously, it locked the region down, detaining thousands of people, imposing movement restrictions, and enforcing a communications blackout.

India rejects Muslim bloc's stand on Jammu and Kashmir

By Shuriah Niazi

NEW DELHI (AA) – India on Thursday rejected the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) recent comments on human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it has no right to comment on the country's internal affairs.

“Our position is consistent on this matter and has no ambiguity. OIC has no locus standi in matters strictly internal to India, including that of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

“We have in the past also reiterated that OIC should refrain from making unwarranted references on India.”

New Delhi’s response comes after the human rights body of the OIC on Tuesday called for an end to “gross and systematic human rights violations” in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission urged the OIC to compel India to abandon efforts to alter the disputed region’s “geographic and demographic status,” allow fact-finding missions of the OIC and the UN, and “let Kashmiris exercise their legitimate right to self-determination.”

Concerns over demographic changes in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir have persisted since New Delhi scrapped the region’s autonomous political status last August and allowed outsiders to buy land and apply for government jobs in the disputed territory.

– Disputed region

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in the Siachen Glacier region in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984, with a cease-fire enforced in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands have been killed in the conflict since 1989.