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NO plan to grant citizenship to refugees from West Pakistan

Srinagar: Jammu & Kashmir’s minister for rehabilitation and assistance, Syed Bashari Bukhari, in reply to a question by an independent MLA, Er Sheikh Abdur Rashid, said in a written reply in the state assembly on 22 June that government has no plan under consideration to grant permanent citizenship to refugees from West Pakistan settled in J&K but said, at the same time that people who migrated from Pakistan-held Kashmir (and settled down in J&K) are permanent citizens of this state. He said that the number of families which migrated in 1947 from Pakistan-held Kashmir (and settled in J&K) is 31,619, adding that because of (Pak-held Kashmir) being part of the former Jammu & Kashmir state, those people are permanent residents and citizens of the state. He said that 5764 persons who migrated from West Pakistan and reached J&K are not permanent citizens of the state. They are citizens of the country (probably implying that they are citizens of India but not of Jammu & Kashmir state) and hence J&K government has no plan under consideration to give these people permanent citizenship of the state. He further said that because of not being citizens of J&K, these West Pakistan refugees are not considered deserving of government jobs too.

It may be stated that earlier (last year and early this year (2016) also the problem of refugees from West Pakistan had become a big controversial topic when PDP’s senior leader and MP, Muzaffar Husain Baig had stated in one of his statements on 31 January 2016 that the problem of refugees from West Pakistan is a humanitarian problem to solve which he has a formula. A few months after his (Muzaffar Baig’s) statement, the then President of BJP’s state unit and MP, Jugal Kishore Sharma had told media pesons that a committee headed by state’s deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh has been constituted to review the rights of refugees from West Pakistan and soon they will be granted citizenship. However, after this statement of Jugal Kishore, separatist organisations and groups and even National Conference leaders had strongly reacted against this, because of which the state government had put the problem of citizenship for West Pakistan refugees in the cold storage. Even now, separatist leaders and organisations and National Conference too are strongly opposed to granting permanent citizenship to West Pakistan refugees because they feel that by granting them citizenship or citizenship rights and right to vote in assembly elections, Muslim identity of the state (J&K) will be lost. They also accuse BJP of hatching a conspiracy (by favouring citizenship to West Pakistan refugees and other means) to turn Muslim majority of the state into Muslim minority and hence are opposed to any and every such plan.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 July 2016 on page no. 15

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