GoI singles out JK citizens, mulls issuing smart IDs

Srinagar, India
The Modi-led government in New Delhi is considering issuing a special “hybrid smart card” for residents of Jammu and Kashmir. A document of the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) accessed by Kashmir Reader confirms that the Home Ministry has “agreed” to support the proposal.
The Home Ministry plans to annul all other identity cards in the state and introduce the smart card to have access to data of each JK citizen. The proposal includes having a unique identification code for the state’s citizens which can be used to access their data anytime.
“A hybrid smart card for which every citizen in the Valley could be considered through of, which can serve as an offline as well as online authentication card,” read the MHRD’s minutes of the meeting. The minutes say that “representatives of the home ministry noted this and agreed to support the proposal”.
A senior official in New Delhi said that the government of India has decided to consult the Mehbooba-led government in the state on this proposal. “The proposal of the smart card will end the identity crisis for JK citizens outside the state. It will end the unnecessary harassment to Kashmiris in other states as their database will be available online,” he said.
The card could be another headache to the PDP-led government, which is battling strong resentment in the Valley. The card can be considered as another intrusion in personal lives, especially in a region already under elaborate surveillance with a huge military apparatus in place.
PDP leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra told Kashmir Reader that they have no accurate information about the purpose of the card. He said the government would take people into consideration and there has to be some “justification” for issuing the card.
“Once it is clear why the card is being issued, we will take a position,” he said.
The resistance outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat has already denounced the plan. “It only means that they want to increase the surveillance in Kashmir and want to bring every Kashmiri under their surveillance net,” DeM general secretary Nahida Nasreen said in a statement. “The privacy of Kashmiris has already been breached to extreme level and now this new conspiracy of issuing these cards means that India actually wants to go beneath the skin of people here,” she said.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s programme Coordinator Venkatesh Nayak said that the government owes an explanation as to why JK residents are being singled out.
Nayak said that above 70 percent people in Jammu and Kashmir have already enrolled for Aadhaar, according to the UIDAI. He also questioned the concept of a “hybrid” card.
“What is so hybrid about it? Will it have electronic chip? It will raise suspicions that every activity of the people is being traced through some or the other method. This is unequal treatment and the government needs to come clean on it,” Nayak said on phone from Delhi.

Published in Kashmir Reader