The Union Home Ministry on Friday reversed its order on new domicile rules for Jammu and Kashmir after the amendment triggered protests in the Valley and said only domiciled residents of the Union Territory will be eligible to apply for recruitment there. The fresh order made government jobs in the Jammu and Kashmir Administration out of bounds for non-residents.

Earlier – in the order issued on March 31 – the home ministry had reserved jobs for domiciled residents only in Group D and non-entry gazetted government posts. This meant that people from any part of the country could apply for jobs in the higher categories.

The original order stated that the domiciles would have been eligible “for the purposes of appointment to any post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level 4.” The Level 4 post comprises positions such as gardeners, barbers, office peons and waterman, with the highest position in the category being that of a junior assistant.

The revised order from Friday will provide protection to domicilies to apply for “any post” in the government, including senior level positions in Group A and Group B category.

However, no changes were made to the new definition of a resident introduced last week. Under the new definition of domicile for Jammu and Kashmir, a person residing there for at least 15 years will now be eligible to be a permanent resident of the Union Territory. The notification also extended domicile rights to central government employees who have served in the state for ten years and also to their children.

Before August 5 – when the government abrogated the region’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and divided it into two Union Territories – the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was constitutionally empowered to define a resident of the erstwhile state. These defined residents were alone eligible to apply for jobs or own immovable property.

However, the home ministry amended a 2010 legislation – the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment Act) – on March 31 by substituting the term “permanent residents” with “domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir.”

As soon as the notification was issued, it was opposed by all political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including the Jammu Kashmir Apni Party. Party leader, Altaf Bukhari described the order as “a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, and designed to hoodwink the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. He urged Home Minister Amit Shah to put the notification on hold.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who was recently released from detention, said the law was an “insult heaped on injury”.

“Talk about suspect timing. At a time when all our efforts and attention should be focused on the Covid-19 outbreak the government slips in a new domicile law for Jammu and Kashmir,” he tweeted. “Insult is heaped on injury when we see the law offers none of the protections that had been promised.”