Issue of Refugees

The rehabilitation of West Pakistan refugees has always been a very sensitive subject in the state. National Conference has always opposed their settlement on the grounds that doing so would severely compromise the JK's special status under Article 370 and violate the state's constitution. On the other hand, Congress and the parties like Bhartiya Janata Party want full citizenship rights for them. Senior Congress leader and former minister, Manjeet Singh has met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi to seek ''living rights and identity'' for these refugees. There is no denying the fact that these refugees deserve humanitarian attention. There is certainly a case for providing relief to them. But the issue becomes complex when we talk of providing political rights to them. It gets easily entangled with the lingering politics of conflict in the state. Successive state governments have argued that as per the provisions of the Article 370 which confers special status on J&K within Indian Union, it cannot give citizenship rights to anybody who is not the permanent resident of the state, and this includes people both from the rest of India and from Pakistan.  As a result they have made a clear-cut distinction in granting citizenship rights to different types of refugees in the state. Those who came from Pakistan Administered Kashmir were allowed to settle down in the state with full citizenship rights while the same rights were denied to those who came from Pakistan. As a result, while the latter enjoy Indian citizenship and can vote in Lok Sabha election, they have no JK citizenship and hence cannot vote in Assembly elections. There is a parallel issue that is similarly a major bone of political contention in the state. It is the Jammu and Kashmir Resettlement Act which grants the right of return to state subjects who fled to Pakistan or PaK after the Partition riots in Jammu, among them also hundreds of families who migrated to other side from Kashmir Valley. The question of both types of refugees is rooted into the overall issue of Kashmir. As a result, all political parties in the state need to exercise utmost restraint before raking up issues that are entangled with the troubled political baggage of the state. We certainly need to work for a solution but this ought to be comprehensive, as part of all the issues that make Kashmir such a problematic place.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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