67 Years in Exile

Source: JKSC      Date: 04 Nov 2014 12:50:00


Jammu province of the state of Jammu & Kashmir has off late earned the distinction of being called as Refugee Capital of Asia. According to unofficial data collected by various social organizations working for and among these people, the migrant population residing in the area is over 17 lakhs. These fall into five broad categories. Although all categories of the migrants living in Jammu have their own stories of unbearable pains inflicted upon them, the worst affected among them are those who migrated from West Pakistan at the time of unfortunate partition of India in 1947.

With creation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Dominion of Pakistan) by way of partition of Bharat lakhs of people both Muslims and non-Muslims were compelled to cross the newly drawn international borders and re-settle in India or Pakistan as the case may be. They were popularly known as ‘refugees’ on both the sides and were rehabilitated by the two governments.

Those who came to the Indian side from the new-born Pakistan got agricultural lands and houses to live from the properties left behind by the people who went to Pakistan. These migrants and their descendents are now equal and proud citizens of India. They enjoy all rights that are available to any other Indian citizen under the Constitution of the Republic.

Although most of those who passed through the tragic event of partition had to witness a phase of turmoil and extreme pain in the process of migration and resettlement, the Government of India took care of their proper rehabilitation in various parts of the country(Except in the state of J&K). That they were not at all discriminated against on the basis of their place of origin is evident from the fact that many of them rose to the highest offices in India. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani come from the same section of society in Independent India.

But a poor section of Indians who were forced to decamp from their homes in today’s Pakistan in 1947 was not so lucky. Now known as West Pak Refugees,this section of Hindus came from Sialkot, Gujranwala and Rawalpindi districts of the erstwhile Punjab. These people chose to migrate to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. This decision was most probably based on their geographical and cultural proximity to Jammu. These migrants, being members of the poor and illiterate sections of society could not foresee the ill- consequences of this decision. For them Jammu & Kashmir was also India. They were literally unaware of the concept of state-subjects as prevalent in Jammu& Kashmir. For them it was not possible to make a distinction between migration to Indian state of Punjab and Jammu Kashmir. Unfortunately, their choice of Jammu and Kashmir as new home land led to an unending trail of complications and hardships.

Even after passage of 65 years in their new homeland, the people who migrated from West Pakistan to Jammu & Kashmir continue to live as unwelcome entrants into the state. The laws of Jammu & Kashmir do not recognize them and their descendents as ‘state subjects’ or permanent residents of the state till date The West-Pak Refugees cannot buy and own properties in the state. The eligible voters among them figure in the voter list for Lok Sabha but for the state of Jammu and Kashmir they are not voters. They cannot vote or contest Panchayat and Vidhan Sabha elections. Their children cannot get admissions in the professional colleges. And when it comes to government jobs, the youths from this community are not entitled to get jobs in the state government departments. Over 75 percent of these refugees belong to the scheduled castes but the benefits due to them as members of these castes are not available to them.

This story of denial and inhuman treatment meted out to these sons and daughters of Bharat Mata would not end here. While the Pakistani refugees who went to other parts of the country in 1947 were allotted properties left behind by the Muslims in their respective states, the West Pakistani Refugees living in Jammu and Kashmir are yet to get anything in lieu of their houses and other properties left behind in Pakistan. The state government allotted houses of those who migrated to Pakistan from J&K to these families but they are yet to be made owners of these houses. Till date they are treated as tenants and deposit rent to the custodian department of the state for these dwellings. The most painful part of this violation of basic human rights is that the state which is yet to recognize these Hindu families (who chose to be Indians in 1947) as state subjects has kept the ownership rights of the Pakistani Muslims (who left J&K for Pakistan in 1947) intact in a false hope of their coming back to the state. A careful analysis of reasons of their sad plight leads to a simple conclusion that these poor people have been made to suffer due to the communal and anti-Hindu mindset of the successive rulers of Jammu and Kashmir after the state’s accession to India. The hight of insensitivity of the sectarian rulers towards these citizens is also evident from the fact that no initiative for proper enumeration of the West –Pak refugees was ever attempted in the state during past six and a half decades. In the year 1981 the Government of Jammu & Kashmir distributed application forms to thousands of West Pakistani Refugees for Permanent Resident status. However, no further action was taken. on 31.8.2001, the then Union Home Minister Shri L.K. Advani and On 8.1.2005 the then Home Minister Shri Shivraj Patil wrote a letter to the Government of Jammu & Kashmir, wherein both made an appeal to adopt measures for conferring a status of dignity and equality to the West Pakistani Refugees.But, The Government of Jammu & Kashmir did not pay any heed to the said appeal. The Government of India by an order dated 09.05.2007 constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Shri G.D. Wadhwa, IAS Financial Commissioner (Revenue) to look into the demands and problems of West Pakistani Refugees. It has almost seven years no action has been taken on the recommendations of Wadhwa Committee

 

This section of the Indian citizens living in Jammu and Kashmir has been the most neglected lot among the sufferers at the hands of communal Islamist forces and their well designed strategy to weakening the nationalist forces in Jammu and Kashmir. While the legislature and judiciary of Jammu and Kashmir have grossly failed to take note of the issues of this section of society in the state, those at the helm of affairs in Delhi would have to own their part of the blame in the dirty communal politics of Jammu and Kashmir. Had Delhi been alive to the suffering of these predominantly downtrodden citizens, things might have improved? Similarly the national media cannot escape its responsibility. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the refugees from West Pak are also Indian citizen. National media that has developed a habit of responding hysterically to the sufferings of some individuals on human rights front can also be blamed for the criminal neglect of the sufferings of a community as a whole.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its judgement on a Writ Petition No. 7698 of 1982 decided on 20.2.1987 made the following observations:

1The position of the Petitioner and those like him is anomalous and it is up to the legislature of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to take action to amend legislations, such as the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of the People Act, the Land Acquisition act, the Village Panchayat Act, etc. so as to make persons like the Petitioner who have migrated from West Pakistan in 1947 and who have settled down in the State of Jammu & Kashmir since then, eligible to be included in the electoral roll, to acquire land, to be elected to the Panchayat, etc. etc. This can be done by suitably amending the legislations without having to amend the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution.

In spite of the observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, neither the Government of India nor the Government of Jammu & Kashmir took any measures whatsoever for past 25 years.

Observations of a committee under the Chairmanship of Shri G.D. Wadhwa, IAS Financial Commissioner (Revenue)

(a)Citizenship rights to West Pakistani refugees and other allied demands - West Pakistani Refugees are very much citizens of India and there is no separate citizenship of the State. However, their demand is extension of Permanent Resident Certificate benefits to them in the State. This demand is a political one and requires amendment of the State Constitution. Therefore, it is for the Government to take a decision.

(b)Provision of separate funds for providing basic civic amenities (opening of Anganwari centres etc.) in the areas of habitation of West Pakistani refugees - The demand of provision of separate funds for providing basic civic amenities (opening of Anganwari centres etc.) in the areas of habitation of West Pakistani refugees is genuine and deserves sympathetic consideration.

(c)They should be extended the benefit of Reserve categories such as SC/ST/Social Castes/OBC, etc. - in the areas of habitation of West Pakistan belong to SC category, Government may issue separate Circular Instructions for granting to them Reserve Category certificates applicable only for recruitment to posts under the Central Government or other State Governments and opera-military forces.

(d)The demand that centrally sponsored schemes be made applicable to West Pakistani Refugees is a justified demand. Government may consider extending the benefits of IAY/BPL to the West Pakistani Refugees.

(e)The Deputy Commissioners be directed to issue the domicile certificates in favour of West Pakistani Refugees of 1947 after fulfilling the procedural formalities.

The recommendation given by wadhwa Committee are still not implemented.