BJP ditched West Pakistan Refugees
Mahadeep Singh Jamwal
After gaining independence from the British in 1947, the State of Pakistan was physically separated into two enclaves, with the western and eastern wings separated from each other by the Republic of India. In 1970, West Pakistan was devolved and renamed ‘Pakistan’ It made no effect on East Pakistan and the next year’s civil war in Pakistan resulted in the secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. West Pakistan had hostile relations with India, primarily due to aftermaths of the 1947 independence and the issue of Kashmir. In 1947, the Pakistan Army and Air Force attempted to annex Kashmir. From Sialkot, the capital of one of the districts of the Punjab province of Pakistan, located in the north-east of the province, the Hindus migrated to Indian side and some to Jammu District as Sialkot lies southeast of Gujarat District, and southwest of Jammu District of J and K State. People from West Pakistan arrived in India in 1947, even before enforcement of Article 370, Article 370 came into operation in 1957, while they came here in 1947 and they were asked to remain in the border villages on the advice of then Prime Minister and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The Sialkot is third richest city in Pakistan, hence the financial status of these migrants can well be arrived at before their migration. Braving the bloodbath of partition, they migrated to villages in Jammu hoping for a better future, but their grievances are grave as they find themselves living like second class citizens in J and K. The West Pakistani refugees settled in Jammu and Kashmir are citizens of India and they have the right to vote in Parliamentary elections. This means the progeny of a refugee is successful in the All India Civil Services examination; he/she could become the Chief Secretary or the head of the police force. But in J and K, he/she cannot become a constable or a clerk in the State Government, if he/she decides to take employment in the State. This is because of the reasons that they are not permanent residents of the State in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the State Assembly and local bodies. They cannot purchase land in J and K. In nutshell they are deprived of all the concessions and benefits which an ordinary person can avail who is permanent resident of J and K.
West Pakistani refugees aspire to have domicile right in Jammu and Kashmir, special package for rehabilitation in the State, right to vote and contest State Assembly elections, among others, allotment of land, special recruitment, right to education in technical/professional institutions, issuance of SC/OBC certificates, appointment of a Relief Commissioner for West Pakistani Refugees. These are the basic rights denied so for to West Pakistan refugees for the last 70 years. If we have to visit the statement of Advocate Anirudh Sharma from Jammu, we find that the State Government granted permanent resident status to some of these West Pakistan refugees subject to the condition that they could be employed only as sweepers. They and their children are not allowed to hold any positions higher than these. Further, their children are not entitled to gain education in government universities or avail any scholarships to gain education, is a matter of great concern for every human heart. On the other hand, Illegal economic migrants from Bangladesh have been given everything, voting rights, employment doles, political patronage. On the other side, these people are living a second grade life. In Bachan Lal Kalgotra case in 1987, the SC had said that it was for the governments, the Centre and State, to realise the genuine grievances of these refugees and grant them permanent resident status in the state to enable them vote for the State Assembly and Panchayat elections. The conferment of permanent resident status to the West Pakistani Refugees settled in Jammu and Kashmir falls within the purview of the State Constitution.
Here we require refreshing memories on the u-turn of BJP about West Pakistan Refugees. In Assembly as well as in Parliamentary elections, the BJP has committed status of permanent resident of J and K, and this was a tactical move to project itself as well wisher of Hindu community in Jammu region to exploit the sentiments of this community and now it has confined its role to support the PDP as the government is in favour of issuing just identity cards and no reference of PRC and pleasing this community by monetary consideration, instead of their honorable living a dignified life for job and other allied benefits being percolated upon the persons having PRCs. The BJP is doing politics of convenience to remain glued to the power by maintaining criminal silence for every move of PDP discriminatory towards Jammu.
The statements of BJP leaders prior to formation of present coalition (a coalition of convenience) on West Pakistan Refugees issue snowballing into a major controversy in Jammu and Kashmir require special mention. Talking to The Citizen somewhere in January 2015, senior BJP leaders said they wanted to ensure full voting rights and proper citizenship for the WPRs on humanitarian grounds. Senior BJP leader, Nirmal Singh went further by stating that “So I think on humanitarian grounds, the WPRs must get their identity in the form of proper citizenship. Once they will have the citizenship, they would automatically be entitled to vote”. Bur after getting musical seats, the humanitarian touch of these leaders have turned out to be of faithful character towards Kashmir centric politics.
Prior to the establishment of PDP-BJP Government in J and K Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) led Union Government was projecting seriously considering grant of permanent resident status to WPRs and was curious to impress upon the new State Government to consider, as a onetime measure for the demand of WPRs to grant them status of permanent residents of the state sympathetically, so that they can live in a dignified way, with all legal rights including right to vote in state Legislative Assembly elections, it wanted state to create provisions in the Constitution for the same.
(To be continued)
But after the power packet with sympathisers of separatists, the BJP at the Center is also confined to enjoy the music composed by PDP to keep its graph visible on the power meter, otherwise after bad expose it has lost all credibility in Jammu region also and in valley it was never tolerated neither tolerated at present.
A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) headed by then BJP MP Venkaya Naidu, including ten members from the Rajya Shaba, strongly recommended Permanent Resident Certificate and voting right for the West Pakistani Refugees, including some other sops. Subsequently, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home- Affairs in its 183rd report on ‘Problems being faced by refugees and displaced persons in J and K’ presented by the committee Chairman P. Bhattacharya in Rajya Sabha on 22nd December, 2014, strongly recommended for granting of Permanent Resident Status to the west-Pakistani refugees. The WPRs were not considered eligible for government jobs even under the Central Government as the jobs were created in the name of State Government which did not treat them as state in the recruitments for army and Para Military Forces, domicile certificates are asked, which they do not have. People are living at the land which was given on compassionate basis.
The recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs for the permanent settlement of West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir has come under heavy firing by moderate Hurriyat Conference by opposing and reacting that the Hurriyat is extremely concerned by what seems to be a vigorous effort to meddle with the demographics of Jammu and Kashmir to change the facts on the ground with the eventual aim of subverting the people’s right of self-determination. It described the Centre’s move as “forcible integration and assimilation of the internationally disputed state”. The Hurriyat unequivocally and vehemently opposes the recommendation recently made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The points which the Hurriyat objected to included grant of citizenship rights, right to vote in Assembly and local- bodies elections to the refugees, abolishing the Custodian Department and allotting the evacuee property to the occupants of the said properties. While it is the purview of Parliament and Government of India to grant the west Pakistan Refugees Indian citizenship and any economic concessions or benefits it deems fit, it has no legal standing or right to grant these refugees ‘Permanent Resident (State Subject) Status’ in Jammu and Kashmir or any rights related to this status, such as the right to own land or immovable property in the state.
Concluding, West Pakistani Refugees consist of 80 per cent Scheduled Castes, 10 per cent OBC and 10 per cent General Category and Scheduled living in Jammu Kathua and Samba. Presently, WPRs are working as farmers and farm laborers. Pertinently, both the factions of Hurriyat Conference, JKLF and even mainstream parties like NC, have termed the settlement of West Pakistan Refugees a move aimed at changing JK’s demography even on the decision to give them just identity card, and money, which do not matter much as to the commitment and promises of BJP to grant PR status. How BJP in power both at the Center as well as in State is going to get it done as they have surrendered in Toto before PDP, which otherwise too carries not good opinion about people of Jammu. Interestingly some BJP ministers in the Center representing State speaks much in Jammu forgetting that their own family members in Jammu from other political party are opposing their concern, so better to settle the issue in the family first before going to public. So plainly speaking BJP’s leaders have ditched Western Pakistan Refugees of real concern i.e. PRCs although common man as well as voters of BJP are still in shoulder to shoulder with WPRs.
By: Mahadeep Singh Jamwal