In 2019, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government took several measures to strengthen its hold on the disputed territory to make its grip tighter on New Delhi’s authority.
Saturday marked four years since the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir was abolished, a significant move by New Delhi against the disputed region in the past seven decades.
In 2019, the BJP government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted partial autonomy to the region. This move was met with criticism from residents and critics, who termed it as an attempt by the BJP to impose “demographic imperialism,” aiming to change its demographics and deprive Kashmiris of their livelihoods.
This week, the Supreme Court of India began hearing several petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the BJP’s 2019 move.
However, the people of the valley express little hope for any significant change.
Nevertheless, in 2020, a domicile law was introduced, allowing anyone who has lived in the region for 15 years or studied there for seven years to apply for a domicile certificate, making them eligible to apply for land and jobs.
The policy also proposed provisions for the construction of five Marla (0.031 acres) houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin, a government initiative to provide housing to rural poor.
Additionally, the Ministry of Federal Rural Development has set a target of 199,550 new houses for economically weaker sections (EWS) and low-income group (LIG) people for the financial year 2023-24.
Kashmiri activists and politicians have expressed doubts about these schemes, questioning who will benefit from them, alleging “deliberate ambiguity” on the part of the government.
Discrepancies between the figures for landless and housing allocations raise broader concerns. According to official figures, in 2021, there were 19,047 landless people in the region, as reported by a human rights forum called the Jammu and Kashmir Forum for Human Rights Advocacy.
“Likely, the allocation of 199,550 new houses will include urban migrants, including laborers, rickshaw pullers, and street vendors. However, any Indian citizen who has been residing in the region due to employment, education, or ‘long-term tourism’ will also be eligible to apply. If the affordable housing policy is implemented, it will include nearly ten lakh (one million) people,” the report said.
Former Chief Minister of the region, Mehbooba Mufti, accused the government of using the excuse of providing housing for homeless people to import poverty and slums into the region.
Mufti stated, “Local people have been completely empowered, be it in land or jobs.”
“Conditions are bad economically as well. Besides showcasing so-called tourism, whether it is the fruit industry or any other, they are finishing it off. No one can speak or question such surveillance,” she added.