Syed Junaid Hashmi
Patron of National Conference (NC) Dr Farooq Abdullah threatened that its party won’t be mute spectator to state government issuing domicile certificates to west-Pakistan refugees.
Farooq called it extra-constitutional misadventures aimed at circumventing the state’s special constitutional status and character, little realizing that his son and ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s government had silently issued 784 domicile certificates to West-Pakistan refugees living in the border areas of Jammu region between year 2009-2012, after which the same was stopped, not because of the fears of demographic change but purely for political reasons.
A fear had unnecessarily griped the Kashmir based political parties that if West-Pakistani refugees are given domicile certificates or even what they are demanding Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs), state government would be forced to go for re-organization of the assembly constituencies which would ultimately lead to increase in the number of constituencies in Jammu region, a move that could result Kashmir region losing power to dominate political scene of Jammu and Kashmir.
The refugee leaders maintain that the Kashmir based political parties are under the impression that the West-Pakistan refugees are more than 10 lac in number. This is the fear that is not allowing them to settle this issue once and for all, maintain the refugee leaders. They assert that domicile certificates were being issued to them till the year 2012 but after that were stopped since a senior Minister of the then NC-Congress government feared ‘demographic change’.
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And the latest move of the PDP-BJP government to issue identity cards and not the domicile certificates to West-Pakistan refugees had led to even Congress President for J&K Ghulam Ahmed Mir saying that the special status of the state was under threat whose party leader and ex-Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had started the process of giving domicile certificates to West-Pakistan refugees to facilitate them in getting jobs in the central services.
According to official documents, domicile certificates were being issued upto year 2012 i.e. upto 4 years of the ex-CM Omar Abdullah led dispensation. Revenue department of Jammu and Kashmir, which was then with Congress had accepted in a letter to Department related standing committee on the Home Affairs that it was issuing domicile certificates to refugees till the year 2012.
The revenue department sources revealed that the certificates were being issued after proper verification of the claimants that they were West-Pakistani refugees. This is in complete contrast to the claim that the PDP-BJP government was issuing domicile certificates for the first time and the same had never been issued earlier.
It needs to be mentioned here that West-Pakistani Refugees are not considered permanent residents of the State of J&K in terms of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir on the grounds that WPRs were not in possession of the ownership of land i.e sahib-e-jaidad of J&K in the year 1944, a pre-condition to acquire a Permanent Residency Rights. However, the fact remains that WPRs are living in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947 running from pillar to post in search of permanent source of livelihood. Moreover, WPRs arrived here even before enforcement of Article 370.
WPRs are very much citizens of India having voting rights in Parliamentary elections but they have no voting rights for the state assembly elections particularly when the ruling establishment at the centre and State government at the time of partition advised WPRs to stay at border villages and made assurance to them for a decent life. But the same is yet to be fulfilled.