Mirwaiz Umar for joint resistance against 'settlement' of West Pakistan refugees in JK

Greater Kashmir

Says any move at changing state’s demography will be resisted

Srinagar, Jan 12: Raising his pitch against Government of India’s proposal to settle West Pakistan refugees—who are non-state subjects—in Jammu and Kashmir, the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Monday cautioned that any move aimed to change the demography of the state will be resisted to protect its identity. To garner support on the issue, which has already snowballed into a major controversy, Mirwaiz asked mainstream political parties “who believe in demographic integrity of the state” to resist settlement of non-state subjects and protect the identity of Kashmiris.
He said the conglomerate will consult other separatist parties, legal fraternity and members of civil society to “formulate a united, effective and sustained effort in defense of J&K.”
“The APHC unequivocally and vehemently opposes the recommendation made by the Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs to grant Jammu & Kashmir Permanent Resident (State Subject) Status to refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan. The APHC cautions the Government of India and the BJP leadership from proceeding ahead with any step to violate, dilute or undermine the legal rights of the permanent residents, state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir,” Mirwaiz said, chairing a joint meeting of the conglomerate’s Executive, General Council and Working Committee members at its Rajbagh headquarters here, to deliberate over the sensitive issue.
“The APHC 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 within the state with the eventual aim of subverting the people of Jammu & Kashmir’s right of self-determination and the forcible integration and assimilation of the internationally-disputed state of J&K,” he said.
“In the wake of these increasing threats—planned, recommended or otherwise publicly committed—to Jammu and Kashmir’s identity and legal status in violation of the legal rights and protection of its permanent residents (state subjects), the APHC has resolved to reach out to all other pro-freedom parties, members of civil society and the legal fraternity in the state to mount a united, effective and sustained effort for the defense of J&K”.
He said, “We will also reach out to civil society in Jammu and Ladakh in this effort as their rights are also under threat.”
The Hurriyat (M) chairman said “the APHC expects all regional political parties whether inside or outside the assembly, who believe in the demographic integrity of the state, to come out clearly against these moves and ensure that the Kashmiri identity is protected. The APHC and the people of Kashmir are watching the role they play with regard to this most vital issue.”
On the occasion, the members opposed similar proposals in the BJP’s ‘Vision Document’ for the state released in November 2014 which, they said, included “granting these refugees citizenship rights, including right to vote in Assembly and local-bodies elections.”
The members also condemned the BJP’s agenda to abolish the “custodian department and to allot the evacuee properties to non-state subjects and others who are occupying their properties since 1947-48.”
“Such a move is also illegal and would be a violation of the Right of Return which all those Kashmiris who were forced to migrate to the other side of the ceasefire line are entitled to. Nobody has the right to confiscate the property and dispossess any permanent resident (state subject) of Jammu & Kashmir of their lands, including those whose property is currently under the custodian department,” they said.
“J&K state subject laws were originally put in place in 1927 and have served as a basic protection of the rights of the people of the state. APHC vows to stridently resist any attempt to implement these illegal and nefarious plans which are in violation of the legal rights and protections that all permanent residents (state subjects) of J&K  have,” they said.
“While it is the purview of the Indian 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 J&K or any rights related to this status, such as the right to own land or immovable property in J&K,” they said.
The members said the refugees who came to J&K from erstwhile West Pakistan are not permanent residents (state subjects) of the state. “They are not eligible to ever become ‘Permanent residents’ (state subjects) of J&K. This is a legal reality and has nothing to do with any communal mindset. The West Pakistan refugees have no right to Permanent Resident (State Subject) Status in the same way that the thousands of Tibetan Muslim Refugees who have been living in Kashmir since 1960 have no right to Permanent Resident (State Subject) Status in J&K,” they said.
Mirwaiz maintained that “this is not a communal issue or an issue that is so-called Jammu versus Kashmir.”
“This is a Jammu and Kashmir issue. The APHC cautions those parties that are trying to divide and polarize the people of the state to desist from pursuing such dangerous agendas. The APHC views both the Indian Parliament Standing Committee’s recommendations and the BJP’s stated policy agenda points on the West Pakistan Refugees as an aggressive attempt to change Jammu & Kashmir’s demographics,” he said.
“Such moves are fraught with dangers. If carried out, such decisions will be regarded as no less than a direct frontal attack on the unique legal status of J&K, on the protections that all citizens of the state irrespective of religion or region enjoy as Permanent Residents (State Subjects), and on the people of J&K’s right of self-determination,” he said.