Permanent Residency Rules in J&K being changed by Governor: Political Parties

Political parties in the Kashmir Valley are up in arms over what they say are Governor Satyapal Malik’s efforts to change the process of granting Permanent Resident Certificate or PRC in the state – a very sensitive issue in Kashmir Valley. Sources said that there are efforts to simplify the rules to grant Permanent Residency and the Governor has written to administrative officials seeking their input.

The Permanent Residency Status is linked to the Constitution’s Article 35A — which grants the state its special status and has been challenged in the Supreme Court. It classifies people who are eligible as permanent residents in Jammu and Kashmir and enjoy special rights and privileges.

The matter has brought together the political leaders in Kashmir Valley, who claim it is possible that under the garb of simplification, the rules can be diluted. This might help outsiders get residency status in the state, which will change its demography. They contend that the Governor, who is currently in the capacity of a caretaker, cannot make any change without consulting the stakeholders.

Last week, following rival claims by Mehbooba Mufti and Sajad Lone, Governor Satyapal Malik had dissolved the state assembly, clearing decks for assembly elections in the state. In absence of any elected government, any change in the PRC can be made by an order of the Governor.

The two mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir – Omar Abdullah’s National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party – have flagged their concerns to Governor Satyapal Malik’s move. Sajad Lone, who wanted to form the government in the state last week with BJP support, has found himself on the same page as Mehbooba Mufti, who put in a rival claim.

In his letter, which he posted on Twitter, Omar Abdullah, cited media reports to say, “The State administrative council (SAC) is unilaterally bringing changes in the working of institutions and procedures, a practice that is against the principles and spirit of democracy and participative governance”

Mr. Abdullah said it was a “brazen act to further create mistrust among people” and can have serious effects on peace and harmony in the state.

The move, he said, comes when the state does not have an elected government. “This makes the move of your administration open to question as we believe the role of the government is more in the nature of a caretaker government,” he added.

In his tweet, Sajad Lone, who staked claim to form a government last week with the backing of the BJP, said, “The governor and administration need to restrict itself to basic governance. No structural changes pertaining to PRC or J&K Bank are acceptable. Restrict your energies to what you are mandated to do- which incidentally you are not doing. Please don’t invent new problems.”

Article 35A, which forms the bedrock of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The BJP has been against the special rights and privileges the state gets under it.

The fight to preserve the Article 35A – which has the backing of the state’s people – had brought together arch-rivals Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. The two leaders not only boycotted the local bodies’ elections in the state but also formed an alliance along with the Congress to form a government in the state.