When J&K had not yet forgotten what was done by the ruling party of India on 5th August 2019, the new type of virus- COVID-19- broke out killing humans rampantly, irrespective of religion, race, colour or caste. Given the fatality of it we all are facing together nobody dares to venture out, meanwhile BJP went further to intensify the sufferings of the people of Jammu and Kashmir by imposing laws on it which are wholly undesirable to Kashmiris. Who on earth would be so stubborn in clamping down on a particular community in such a time when whole humanity ought to be fighting against the pandemic unitedly? Instead of uniting together to ward off this virus, BJP is lagging behind in creating huge asunder between J&K and the mainland of India.

J&K’s economy was already suffering due to the indefinite lockdown imposed by BJP, the ruling party of India so that People of J&K wouldn’t come out on Streets to protest against its stubbornness and ruthlessness which the ruling party has proven by robbing J&K of its own Constitution and identity without involving the consent of the people of the state. After all this, Kashmiris got no opportunity till date to demonstrate what they actually want.

While State’s own Economic Survey Report of 2016 mentions that unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is higher than the average national unemployment rate, with J&K having 24.6% population in the age of (18-29 years) unemployed which is far more than All India unemployment rate of 13.2%. Subsequently imposed lockdowns in J&K since 2016 worsened it further. Whereas youth of Kashmir were career-oriented in the words of Talat Ahmad, vice-chancellor of Kashmir University “but employment issues drive some of them in the wrong direction.”

J&K as a union territory was already lagging behind in medical facilities and the lack of 4G internet pushed J&K further into the chasm of devastation. The stubbornness of the central govt. of India can be discerned by its very defying the orders of Supreme court of India to restore 4g speed internet within a week. This order came after a petition was filed in SC stating, “A combination of the advent of COVID-19 and the accompanying lockdown has created a situation where right to health, for its effective fulfillment, is dependent on the availability of an effective and speedy internet.”

While BJP found this pandemic blessing in disguise knowing that nobody can come out on streets, given the mortality of the pandemic, it passed new domicile laws for Kashmir. Earlier, when worldwide chastisement emanated against its decision of revoking limited autonomy of the UT in the form of articles 370 and 35A, BJP, in response to that, gave an excuse to vindicate it’s stand giving several fake reasons like, it’s done only for the development and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir and this is its internal matter, and also to provide more jobs for the people of erstwhile state. People of J&K hitherto haven’t seen any development, but in fact, in contrary, unemployment rate is seen and felt at unstoppable speed.

When the need of the hour was to placate Kashmiris who were already full of  anger which they had stifled since the time BJP took away its limited autonomy which whole Kashmir used to pride on, BJP went on further to ravage J&K by releasing the new gazette notification issued on March 31st which states that  any person who has resided in the Union Territory of J&K for the period of fifteen years or has stayed seven years with appearing in secondary and higher secondary board examination would be considered as domicile of J&K. And a migrant registered by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) in the newly formed Union Territory would also be considered as domicile.

The notification has been issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in exercise of powers conferred by section 96 of the J&K Reorganization Act, 2019.This new ruling worries people of J&K profusely because they believe this has been done in order to alter the demographic status – Muslim majority- of erstwhile state. “It is a lot to circumvent the law. I think it illustrates clearly that some will not stop from politicking during corona virus.” Siddiq Wahid, a political analyst told Al Jazeera news outlet while referring to the current Corona virus crisis. (Demographic flooding: India introduces new Kashmir domicile law by Akash Bisht on AlJazeera)

“Obviously it’s an attempt to change the demographics, not only change but flood it. It will lead to demographic flooding,” Wahid said. He also believes that the change of law is “much larger than the issue of jobs”. I am not even thinking about jobs.” Such statements of persons of great intellect, elucidate how much worrying and distressing these newly imposed laws are for the common folk of J&K.

In response, Rakesh Sinha, BJP leader and member of the upper house of parliament, refuses to accept that it’s an attempt to alter the demographic status of erstwhile state. “There is an attempt to spread rumours about altering the demography of the state,” Sinha told Aljazeera.

“To protect Kashmir’s unique identity is our moral and constitutional obligation. Identity of the northeast is protected and so is that of Kashmir so that the uniqueness of their culture remains protected.” This statement contradicts with the very acts and intentions of his party which first abrogated the semi- autonomy of J&K, which in fact was there in Indian Constitution to protect the identity and uniqueness of Kashmir; and then afterwards recently it declared new domicile laws for it.

And now what distresses the people of J&K more is who is going to take their grievances into consideration and how are they going to protest against this sheer arbitrary act of BJP, given the dire consequences of COVID-19? And will UN, to whom Kashmiris are looking with hopeful, yet fatigued eyes, intervene to pressurise BJP to backtrack from what it has done illegally with J&K with absolute impunity?

Mudasir Bashir is a research scholar at Department of English, AMU.

Can be reached at mudasirbashiramu@gmail.com


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