Taking its time to react to the burning issue of proposed settlement of West Pakistan Refugees (WPR) in JK, the Congress Wednesday asserted it had framed a package that was approved by its alliance partner National Conference (NC) for three-categories of refugees but Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government "deliberately" added the dimension of WPRs.
"We had advocated a package for three categories of refugees living in Jammu—Pakistan administered Kashmir refugees, refugees of 1965 Indo-Pak war and refugees of 1971 Indo-Pak war," state Congress chief Prof Saifuddin Soz told Greater Kashmir.
He said the proposal was discussed threadbare with NC and then in the state cabinet. "After cabinet nod, the proposal was forwarded to the government of India for approval," Soz said.
He said in response, the Centre added new dimension to the settlement of refugees by way of WPRs. "Now the ball is in the court of JK government and the Government of India. The new dispensation has to discuss the issue with the Centre and people will come to know about the outcome," he said.
Pertinently, the Congress had maintained silence for the past few months over the issue and according to party leaders; they were observing the situation and assessing the statements made by BJP and PDP leaders. Sources in the Congress maintain that in the official document about refugees, Congress-NC coalition had made no mention of WPRs given the fact that they were non-state residents. "The refugees of 1965 and 1971 war were named as internally displaced persons in the report seeking one-time settlement for them," a source, privy to the report said.
The chairman PaK Refugees Association, Rajiv Chuni said BJP government deliberately incorporated the issue of WPRs with the settlement of rest of the refugees, in a bid to lure them as "its committed vote bank." "Settlement is our right as we belong to the erstwhile princely state of JK and are still displaced. There is no denying the fact that WPRs can't be given citizenship rights as they don't belong to this state," said Chuni, who heads SoS International, spearheading campaign for the restoration of rights to PaK refugees.
He said under the package approved by the previous NC-Congress regime, they were supposed to be settled under one-time settlement plan. "Now the dimension of WPRs has cast shadow on entire process," he said.
Interestingly, the issue of settlement of WPRs has already snowballed into a major controversy with separatists asserting that the move was aimed at changing the demography of the State. NC too has toed a hard-line stating that under the JK constitution, no non-state resident can be settled in the State.