No resident papers for West Pakistan refugees
19 January 2008
Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir government has categorically said refugees who came to the State from the Punjab province (now in Pakistan) during the 1947 communal riots are not eligible for the Permanent Resident Certificate. Better known as West Pakistan refugees, they are not state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir and hence not eligible for the certificate, Minister of State for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Aijaz Ahmed Khan told The Hindu here on Saturday Several attempts by the government to evolve consensus among the political parties on the issue had not yielded results. Grant of the certificate to these refugees, which was part of the Congress manifesto in the 2002 Assembly poll, is set to become a prime issue in the coming elections. According to official figures, 5,764 families, most of them belonging to Scheduled Castes, migrated from the neighbouring Sialkot district as communal riots rocked the entire Punjab belt in 1947. Though they have been J & K residents for the past 60 years and are Indian citizens, they cannot buy property, get employment in the State or even vote in the Assembly elections as they do not have the Permanent Resident Certificate. This essential legal document is given only to those whose ancestors have lived in the State for at least 10 years before May 14, 1954. While human rights groups have been pressing the demand for grant of the Permanent Resident Certificate, many political parties are opposing it as, according to them, the sanctity of the document will be lost.