Modi's Statement Rekindles Hope Among West Pak Refugees

17 August 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Dinesh Manhotra

Jammu: Mentioning of their miseries by the Prime Minister has rekindled a ray of hope among West Pakistani refugees, who have been struggling since 1947 to get their basic fundamental rights. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a rally after inaugurating the Chutak hydroelectric project at Kargil on Tuesday, had promised to solve problems of all displaced persons of Jammu and Kashmir, including West Pakistani refugees. 'See the condition of Jammu and Kashmir where 20 per cent of the population is displaced. We want to settle these displaced people and give them an opportunity for their livelihood,' Modi said while referring towards West Pakistani and other refugees living in the state. 'Modi's statement is significant in the sense that first time a Prime Minister has publicly mentioned miseries of West Pakistani refugees,' said Ram Singh, a leader of the West Pakistani refugees. 'This statement signifies importance because the Prime Minister is aware of the woes of helpless refugees who are deprived of their basic fundamental rights by the successive state and Central governments,' he said. 'Modi's predecessors had succumbed to fundamentalist forces in the Valley due to which no decision to grant citizenship to West Pakistani refugees has been taken so far,' Singh said. The West Pakistani refugees have been struggling to get citizenship rights since 1947. At the time of the Partition, Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan had entered Jammu and Kashmir with the hope that in democratic India they would be given all democratic rights. However, even after six decades, these refugees have no voting rights for the state legislative Assembly, no citizenship right, no ration card and no permanent residence certificates due to which neither they can apply for government jobs nor purchase any land in the state. Even their children cannot pursue higher and professional studies. The West Pakistani refugees have reasons to pin hopes on the Prime Minister because Modi in his address has said, 'Displaced people of Jammu and Kashmir are our brothers and sisters. Their joys and sorrows are ours.' Two years ago on August 22, a high-level delegation of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress Committee had met then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi regarding their problems. Though the Central government had assured to solve their problems, the Congress could not take any decision due to opposition by Kashmir-centric mainstream parties and separatist groups, who opposed granting fundamental rights to these 'stateless' refugees.