Geneva, February 19 : Two UN human rights experts have expressed concern that the new domicile rules introduced in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir following Narendra Modi-led Indian government’s unilateral decision to scrap the special status of Kashmir may lead to a demographic change in the territory.
The concerns were expressed by Dr Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, and Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, in a joint press release published on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN experts stated that Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked unilaterally and without consultation in August 2019, adding that about a year later, new domicile rules were introduced which removed the protections given to those living in the territory. They said that subsequent changes to the land laws were further eroding these protections.
They said, the repeal of special status and the imposition of direct rule by the Government in New Delhi suggest that the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights.
“The number of successful applicants for domicile certificates that appear to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir raises concerns that demographic change on a linguistic, religious and ethnic basis is already underway,” said the experts in the statement.
The statement added, “New legislation overrides previous laws which granted the Kashmiri Muslim, Dogri, Gojri, Pahari, Sikh, Ladhaki and other established minorities rights to buy property, own land, and access certain state jobs”.
It further that these legislative changes may have the potential to pave the way for people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to settle in the region, alter the demographics of the region and undermine the minorities’ ability to exercise effectively their human rights.
The UN experts urged the Indian government to ensure that economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are protected, and that they are able to express their political opinions and participate meaningfully in matters affecting them.