When India annexed and reduced Jammu and Kashmir to a centrally administered territory exactly a year ago, observers felt the move was aimed at changing the region’s Muslim-majority character.
While it may take years to enforce huge demographic changes, it appears that the local population has already been ejected from the official machinery, thus further engraining a complex of disempowerment in the region.
According to figures available with the Jammu and Kashmir government, out of 24 secretary-level posts, only five are held by Muslims.
Besides, only 12 or 17.24% of the 58 top officers who manage the region are Muslims. One of them, Shah Faesal, who resigned two years ago after plunging into politics, spent 10 months in prison under the stringent Public Safety Act. Ironically, his resignation has not yet been accepted.
Out of the region’s population of 12.5 million, Muslims comprise 68.31% and Hindus 28.43%, according to a 2011 census conducted by India.
But even in the second tier of civilian bureaucracy known as the Kashmir Administrative Service, Muslims number just 220 (42.06%) out of a total of 523.
Numbers much less in police service
Their numbers are much less in police services. Out of the 66 top police officers responsible for the security of the region, just seven (10.6%) are local Muslims. In the second tier of police service, out of 248 officers, 108 (43.54%) are Muslims.
A few months ago, social media in Kashmir was ablaze over a photograph released by the office of Lt. Governor Girish Chandra Murmu holding a meeting with a battery of bureaucrats. Out of the 19 officials in the photo, there was just one local Muslim officer.
India has appointed one local Muslim -- Farooq Khan, a former police officer turned Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader -- as an advisor to the Lt. governor. Back in 2000, two judicial commissions found him guilty for killing people, who had staged a peaceful demonstration against killing of their relatives in a “fake encounter”.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Khurram Parvez, a noted human rights defender and recipient of the 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award, said the goal of constitutional changes and series of orders issued over the past year appears to be to completely disempower and disenfranchise the local population.
According to Abdul Gafoor Noorani, a Mumbai-based author and an expert on constitutional affairs, the provisions of Article 370 had been incorporated in the Indian constitution seven decades ago to protect the region’s Muslim character in a Hindu-majority India.
“Article 370 was meant to express and protect the identity of Jammu and Kashmir, because of the special circumstances, in which it acceded to India in 1947. And that identity is being destroyed. The region was given special status because of the special historical circumstances,” he said.