How erstwhile J&K discriminated between Muslims, non-Muslims

In the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Hindu and Sikh refugees arriving in the valley from Pakistan during India-Pakistan partition were always considered outsiders and were not given the status of “Permanent Residents” under the J&K state legislature. However, the same legislature enabled the Muslims to return from Pakistan and become permanent residents.
Enabling Muslims and disabling non-Muslims can thus be a correct summing up of the intent of successive state governments. Under these laws, contained in Part III (Sections 6 to 10) of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, there were provisions enabling Muslims to return from Pakistan and obtain the status of being a permanent resident (PR).
It can be said that the definitions of PRs were meant to welcome those Muslims who had gone away to Pakistan; those who had chosen the new nation of Pakistan and preferred it over India.
Ironically, those non-Muslims who had chosen India, over Pakistan, and moved in to new territories in Jammu were barred from acquiring PR status.
According to “State Subjects” laws formulated during Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule on April 20, 1927, continuous residence of 10 years was enough for anyone to acquire domicile of J&K.
In definition of PRs given by the Constituent Assembly of J&K, Class III of the Maharaja was deliberately omitted. This was meant to effectively bar any and every group or individuals from moving into J&K and become a PR.
Section 6 (2) of Part III of the former J&K Constitution states: “Any person who, before the fourteenth day of May 1954, was a State Subject of Class I or of Class II and who having migrated after the first day of March 1947, to the territory now included in Pakistan, returns to the State under a permit for re-settlement in the State or for permanent return issued by or under the authority of any law made by the State Legislature shall on such return be a permanent resident of the State.”
It clearly takes cognizance of the fact that Muslims could have started going out of the State in March 1947. Accordingly, the cut-off date is set at March 1947.
The new domicile laws, brought in May 2020, almost nine months after reorganization of J&K state into two Union Territories (UTs), are same for all. Everyone, irrespective of the religion is eligible for a domicile certificate of J&K if he/she has spent 15 years there.
There is no mention of different cut-off dates and conditions for Muslims and non-Muslims as was the case earlier. Any and all Indian citizens can henceforth become bonafide domiciles of J&K on the fulfillment of clause pertaining to 15 years’ residency.
Prescribed different yardsticks for different communities and adherents of different religions was what the Constitution of J&K did. The changes initiated on August 5, 2019, have provided a level playing field to everyone. The dice is no longer loaded in favour of, or against, the Muslims now. All Indian citizens are now truly equal and stand on the same footing as far as acquisition of domicile goes.