Hundreds of refugees from West Pakistan, who have been living in wretched conditions at different places in Jammu province since 1947, today reached Delhi by buses to attract the attention of the Union President, Prime Minister, Union Ministers and MPs to the problems they have been facing as a result of refusal on the part of the state government to grant them citizenship rights by sitting on dharna at Jantar Mantar. They had migrated to Jammu from Pakistan in the wake of the country’s communal partition to escape the wrath of the protagonists of two-nation theory that had resulted in the emergence of Pakistan as a separate country. Almost all of them are members of depressed communities. It may appear ludicrous, but it is a fact that these refugees numbering about 100,000 do not enjoy the right to immovable property, right to job under state government, right to higher and technical education, right to bank loan, right to vote in the assembly and local body elections and so on even after more than 64 years of the state’s accession to India. They can vote only in the Lok Sabha elections and are eligible only for the central government jobs, which they cannot get because they are not suitably educated. They wanted to quit Jammu in 1947-1948 itself and settle in other parts of India, but they were barred by then political leadership of the time to leave the state. They were assured by the then state wazir-e-azam and others who mattered that they would take appropriate steps calculated to empower them to exercise all rights available to the people of the state and their fellow countrymen. They did nothing in that direction.
Between 1947-1948 and 2011, these abandoned refugees organised hundreds of demonstrations, sit-ins and marches to achieve fundamental rights and lead a dignified life. In between, they also attempted to gehrao the civil secretariat leading to clashes between them, including women and children, and the police. But nothing came out of their efforts. Every political party active in Jammu province exploited them but did nothing for them. It was just a lip service. They even approached the Supreme Court but with no result. The Supreme Court left the matter to the discretion and judgment of the state government. The state government did appoint a committee during the regime of Ghulam Nabi Azad to look into their grievances but the committee did not recommend citizenship rights for these hapless refugees. The committee simple recommended that each refugee family be given some financial relief subject to the condition that the amount would not exceed Rs. 200,000. The committee made this recommendation knowing it full well that they had been fighting for citizenship rights and not for money. Some of the members of the Prime Minister’s Working Groups belonging to Jammu province also raised their issue and demands in their respective Working Groups, but the chairmen of the said groups did not do anything in order to redress their grievances, notwithstanding the fact that it was a human issue. On the contrary, one particular Working Group made recommendation after recommendation aimed at appeasing, pleasing and rehabilitating Kashmiri militants, surrendered or otherwise, with honour.
The truth, in short, is that neither the state government nor the central government has taken cognizance of this human problem in Jammu province and the result is that these refugees have been unsuccessfully moving heaven and earth to get their issue suitably addressed. It is extremely unlikely that their dharna at Jantar Mantar would produce the desired results. The reason is that the Kashmiri representatives are well-entrenched in the New Delhi’s corridors of power. They will surely play a dirty role and defeat all of the moves of these oppressed, suppressed and abandoned refugees. They have been opposing the refugees’ demands right from day one saying grant of citizenship rights to them would not only change the demography of the province but would also increase its representation in the state legislature. It must remain a matter of shame that that we have in our country a group of people are not considered fit for exercising the rights which are available to everyone in the state and outside.
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