Dogra Certificate becomes bone of contention

Srinagar: The state government on April 8 said the issue of Dogra certificate would be discussed and deliberated upon in the cabinet to dispel apprehensions of alleged attempts to change the demography of state.  “The issue will be discussed in the cabinet. We’ll also consider inserting a column in Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) to declare ethnicity of residents of state. Under no circumstances would Dogra certificate form the basis for issuing PRC’s,” says senior Congress leader and Minister for Public Health Engineering (PHE), Irrigation and Flood Control, Taj Mohiuddin, while addressing the media here. He was accompanied by Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla and minister of state for Revenue, Nasir Aslam Wani.

“Dogra certificate is nothing, but it would provide relaxation in recruitment of paramilitary forces and help to curb unemployment. There is a provision in recruitment rules for paramilitary forces where Dogras, Kashmiris and Marathas get relaxation in height and chest width,” said PHE minister. He assured that the certificate wouldn’t form the basis for any other benefit.

The minister said “we don’t want anyone to instigate people. We respect the opinions and sentiments of people. Some people want to play politics on this issue but we won’t let that happen.”

Clarifying further he said “we aren’t going to issue Dogra certificate to a Dogra from other parts of country like Himachal Pradesh. We don’t want misinformation and rumours to prevail. We’ve amplified the order.” He adds that it was desirable and not mandatory for Revenue minister to put the order before the cabinet.

Pertinently, the Revenue minister during an Assembly session in February-March at Jammu asked people of Jammu division to avail benefits of Dogra certificate as sanction for its issuance has already been given by the government.  He informed Government vide Order No. Rev. (LB) 69 of 2011 dated: 25-03-2011 has accorded sanction for issuance of such certificates. “All such residents of Jammu and Kashmir who are otherwise eligible for grant of PRC in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Permanent Resident Certificate (Procedure) Act and rules made thereon, can get the certificate.”

He added that concerned Tehsildar (Territorial) shall be competent to issue such certificates to eligible desirous persons irrespective of his or her ethnicity, religion, cultural background and mother-tongue. For the purpose of issuing the Certificate, all residents of Jammu division irrespective of ethnicity, cultural background and mother tongue should be classified as Dogras, provided their forefathers were residents of Jammu division prior to 1944,” the Minister said while quoting the procedure set by government. However the cutoff date of 1944 shall not apply to displaced persons of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, who will also be eligible for the certificate.

The chief minister Omar Abdullah here on April 15 said “the issue has been blown out of proportion. Its basic purpose is to facilitate the entry of Dogra knowing people of the state in the armed forces.” He added that he would take up the issue with the Union government.

Exuding confidence that Dogra certificate issue would be soon solved, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, Prof. Saif-ud-din Soz here on April 19 said that there is no need for any agitation from any quarter. “The issue would be resolved without any agitation. There is no reason for people to carry out any agitation. There is relaxation for Muslims and Ladakhis and same is applicable for Dogras. The Dogra certificate is needed by people for entry in paramilitary forces and nothing more.”

National Panthers Party (NPP) chairman, Prof. Bhim Singh here on April 14 said that his party has no objection over issuance of Dogra certificate as it would facilitate entry of Dogra knowing people in the army. He however, added government can’t amend PRC for inclusion of column of ethnicity as the same would lead to a change in the Constitution.

“You’ve to change constitution for introducing such a column in PRC,” says Singh, adding “Dogra certificate is a non-issue but still there are people who want to gain political mileage out of it. The certificate is required by people who wish to join the army. This will not dilute importance of PRC.”

Singh said that Dogra certificate used to be issued in the past by the Tehsildar, Station House Officer (SHO) and even by members of Legislative Assembly. “I myself would have issued many such certificates and same was done to facilitate entry of Dogras into the armed forces.” He alleged politicians in the state have lost sense of direction.

However, Hurriyat Conference (G) led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani on April 18 organized an awareness campaign on the certificate issue. “Issuance of Dogra certificate is a well thought-out conspiracy. Communal forces want to divide the state on religious lines. They want to convey to the world that Kashmir movement was pursued by limited number of people,” said Geelani, who called for a shutdown call on April 11.

Terming government’s willingness to amend “Dogra Certificate” as “acceptance of its wrongdoing” independent legislator, Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid from Langate in Handwara on April 8 demanded its complete cancellation.

“By conceding to amend controversial Dogra certificate, government has accepted its wrongdoing and thus, the doubts expressed by various quarters are proved genuine,” says the MLA, in a statement issued here. He added “government’s willingness to make amendments in certificate has proved there is really something fishy about the issue. In the presence of a PRC, there is no need of any other certificate for people.”

Interestingly, Army has categorically denied Bhalla’s assertion that Dogra certificate was aimed at to help Jammu Dogras to get recruited in the Army. Army spokesman made it clear in a statement that there was no question of any relaxation in the matter of recruitment on basis of a particular region or community and that the recruitment in Army is made purely according to merit and other prescribed qualifications.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2011 on page no. 15

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