The Murky Politics Of West Pakistan Refugees
By abdul Majid Zargar
14 February, 2015
While the world is slow in resolving the long outstanding dispute of Kashmir, India is fast widening its scope of intervention in the state to strengthen its hold. The latest is its bid to accord citizenship rights to West Pakistan refugees(WPR) so as to change the demographic character of the state. And local collaborators & facilitators to help it in redeeming this objective are in abundant supply. Another Palestine is in the making, If the Indian attempt goes unchallenged.
Before the issue is discussed in its entirety, We must fundamentally & conceptually be clear about various facets of the issue so that we equip ourselves with appropriate tools to resist the move. First is who are these WPRs and second is whose agenda is it to settle them in our State?
At the time of Partition of sub-continent in 1947, non-Muslims living in west Punjab (mainly in and around Sialkot area,) which later formed part of Pakistan, entered our State as part of a normal migration to & from two newly formed domains.Our State borders were chosen as a preferred route for migration as these were calm & free from riots which had otherwise engulfed the whole of Indian & Pakistani Punjab. Immediately after entering our State, they unfortunately took active part in the massacre of Jammu Muslims along with State & Patiala forces, RSS volunteers under the guidance of then J&K Prime Minster Mehr Chand Mahajan and other top State Officials. Gandhi has referred them as accomplices of local killers.( Collected Works of Gandhi; volume 90, page 115 & 298). While other refugees from Pakistan (usually referred to as sharnarthis those days) were settled in different parts of India according to their individual choices, these WPRs were made to stay in Jammu mainly around Kathua, samba & nearby villages under a design because their physical features, verbal accent & many other things closely resembled with people residing around Kathua, & Samba borders. The purpose of the state headed by Maharaja at that time was to completely settle them in Jammu to change the total demographic character of State already set in motion with massacre of muslims in Jammu belt & compelling the survivors to flee. Many of these WPRs occupied the properties of fleeing Muslims.
Regarding second issue, We must be clear that granting state citizenship rights to these refugees is not a Hindutva agenda but an Indian agenda on Kashmir. The Hindutva brigade now in power in New-Delhi is only fast tracking a process which has already been set in motion by Congress party long before. To buttress my point, it is worthwhile to mention that Dr. Karan Singh, former sadri-Riyasat and a congress starlwart has been perusing this agenda with New-Delhi since seventies. His moves became more pronounced after Sheikh Abdullah assumed power post 1975 Indira-Abdullah accord. In a letter to Indira Gandhi dated 7th July 1980, Karan Singh, a patron of West Pakistan Refugee Central Committee of J&K, vehemently pleaded their case for full citizenship status including voting rights to these refugees. He even suggested an amendment to State Constitution to achieve the nefarious objective.(see Kashmir & beyond-by Jawaid Alam page 294,312) In March 1981, he organized a march of these refugees towards Pakistan border to put pressure on State Govt. headed by Abdullah. However Abdullah resisted New-Delhi’s persistent moves in this regard and in an interview published in all national dailies of 31st March 1981, he categorically refused to oblige New-Delhi on this issue which created an uproar in Indian Parliament.
Speaking on the subject through a calling attention motion in Parliament, Karan Singh denounced Abdullah for his rigid attitude. Again at the behest of Congress during PDP-Congress rule in State, a committee headed by then Financial commissioner G.D.Wadhwa was constituted in 2007 to make recommendations on the issue. Though the recommendations were never made public but according to informed sources the committee has recommended grant of citizenship & voting rights to these refugees purely on communal grounds in tune with New Delhi’s agenda in total disregard to State’s special exclusive state subject laws. Again the head of the recent Joint parliamentary Committee formed by Union Home Minstry, which recommended citizenship rights for WPRs was headed by a congressman & not some Hindu fanatic.
It must however, be placed on record that no Govt. in the state ,for fear of a strong backlash, has ever dared to accord permanent residential status or local voting rights to these refugees. Even Chief Minster, G. M.Sadiq, otherwise perceived to be the chief wrecker of the State autonomy and erosion of article 370 did not dare to do so. It remains to be seen what stand the Mufti syed led likely coalition Govt. in the State takes on the issue. Its coalition partner, BJP has reiterated more than once, that it is in favor of granting the citizenship rights. Even a PDP’s senior member has demanded such rights on the basis of humanity & Islam. Well that seems to be a “quotable quote” of the century.
What follows from above is that the best tool to resist New-Delhi’s design & its collaborators is to impress upon the elected legislators to desist from any such move till final solution of the Kashmir dispute or else Kashmir will be on fire similar to one witnessed in 2008 or 2010.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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