Refugees, Jammu Leaders Warn Hurriyat, Others Against Anti-refugee Stance

11 January 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Gopal Sharma

Jammu: The top refugee leaders and several political leaders from Congress and BJP have strongly reacted to the anti-refugee remarks of Hurriyat Conference leader Sayed Ali Shah Geelani, former Minister and top NC leader Ali Mohd Sagar, MLA Engineer Rashid and some other Valley based leaders and asked them not to mislead the people and create regional divide in the State. These leaders have said that 30- member Joint Parliamentary Committee constituted by the Government of India has given recommendations for full and final settlement of the West Pakistan, POJK and Chhamb refugees of 1965 and 1971 including citizenship rights to the West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) and de-freezing of eight Assembly seats to accommodate them. 'Is this State the fiefdom of Geelani, Sagar, Engineer Rashid or anybody else? Who are they to deny any such right and relief package to the refugees, who are suffering for the last over 67 years?,' they asked and advised these Kashmir based leaders not to mislead the people on this issue and moreover, NC has already lost its ground in the Valley. It is humanitarian issue and needs to be resolved once and for all, they maintained. Reacting strongly to the remarks of Geelani, Rashid and some Kashmir based NC leaders, former Revenue Minister and senior Congress leader Raman Bhalla said that providing citizenship rights to the West Pakistani refugees and one time settlement package to all type of DPs including Chhamb and POJK displaced persons is human issue. 'Congress is committed for providing all the rights to the refugees and it has already done a lot for mitigating their sufferings. He said those people who are against the rights of refugees are not doing good service to the humanity. They should stop behaving like this. They should not try to disturb the peace in the State and create communal divide by resorting to such remarks.' Mr Bhalla asked the people of the State not to give undue attention and importance to such elements of communal mindset and said that what is the fault of those people, who were forced to leave their homes on that side and settled here under compulsion during 1947. 'Had they been allowed to go in other parts of the country, they would have been accorded citizenship rights.' He said that Congress party would always support and fight for the legitimate demands of the refugees. Top refugee leader and president West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee-1947, Labba Ram Gandhi alleged that Geelani, Sagar and Engineer Rashid were speaking the language of Pakistan. He said when West Pakistani refugees were heading towards Punjab, it was towering NC leader late Sheikh Mohd Abdullah who had stopped them at Lakhanpur and assured them to provide land and citizenship rights and ultimately they were asked to settle along the border belt of Jammu, Samba and Kathua. Sheikh Abdullah was serious in providing citizenship rights to refugees and their settlement but unfortunately party leaders including Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar and people like Sagar and others were against this move. Mr Gandhi said nearly 25,460 families of West Pakistani refugees living in Jammu region have the right to vote in Lok Sabha elections but they can not vote in Assembly elections even after 67 years. Unfortunately, nearly 1.50 lakh people have been deprived of this right. 'Had they been allowed to go to other parts of the country to settle down, they would have received all the rights. They can not purchase even property here. Even today a baby is born in our family, he is considered Pakistani while in country like USA or Canada anybody can be permanent citizen after 3 or 5 years.' The Refugee leader alleged that the people giving such anti-refugee statements should come out of their sick and narrow mentality. They are nobody to decide the fate of over 15 lakh refugees. With merely 1.50 lakh WPRs, already living here for the last six decades, no demography is going to be changed. NC leaders and others are just exploiting people of Kashmir. They have no mass base and people have already rejected them. They are communal and stood exposed before the public. The refugees would resort to direct action and target such people if they dare to play with their sentiments and provoked them for their vested interests. 'Mr Gandhi appealed all the refugee groups and organizations to come on single platform and launch united struggle and ban the entry of such people in Jammu in future. Rajiv Chuni, another refugee leader from POJK (SoS International), while taking serious note of the remarks of Geelani, Sagar, NA Wani from NC and MLA Rashid, said refugees are struggling for their rights for the last over 67 years. They have been deprived of their rights. J&K is not the fiefdom of Geelani or people like Sagar or Rashid. It is better for Mr Geelani to take care of his own home or street. NC has already been shown doors by the people of this State. It is better for Mr Sagar to take care of his party. It is not his cup of tea to provide rights to refugees. Let the Government of India take care of the refugees. These people including some from PDP are more bothered about the resettlement of over 5 lakh people who have left this State and gone to Pakistan during partition. It shows their communal mindset. He warned such leaders to desist from giving such statements and disturb peace in the State. Mr Chuni warned of an appropriate action if any one tried to play with the sentiments of already victimized, harassed and deprived community. Capt Yudhvir Singh Chib, another top refugee leader said that not only NC, the PDP is also against the settlement of refugees and providing citizenship rights to WPRs. He said these parties already stood exposed. They are anti-Jammu, and anti-refugee and even anti-Hindu. He said all the WPRs are Hindus and this is the only reason they are opposing it. This exposes their communal agenda and narrow thinking. He said that people living here for the last over 60 years have every right to be the citizens. They are entering fourth generation and Government should accord them all the rights without any delay. The Government and the people like Sagar, Rashid, Wani and Geelani should desist from giving such statements, otherwise, refugees will restrict their movement in parts of Jammu region. He urged the Prime Minister and the NDA Government at the Centre to decide the fate of refugees as early as possible. Another refugee leader Prof Narinder Singh said that to speak against the refugees is part of cheap politics being played on the part of some Valley based leaders. He said all the West Pakistani refugees living in Punjab, Himachal, Delhi and other states are enjoying all the rights. What is their fault if they stayed here and settled on the initiative of Sheikh Mohd Abdullah. Prof Singh demanded that West Pak refugees and DPs from POJK should be provided special settlement package and all the rights. BJP MLA from Gandhinagar and former JMC Mayor Kavinder Gupta while supporting the recommendations of the JPC said that West Pakistani refugees deserve citizenship rights. He said BJP led NDA Government was serious in resolving the issues of POJK, Chhamb and West Pakistan refugees and Prime Minister Narender Modi is seized of the matter. Describing statements of Geelani and Sagar as unfortunate, the BJP leader said that Kashmir centric party had opposed this move in the past also and now they are giving such statements to communalise the situation and disturb peace. Mr Gupta said that BJP would fight for the rights of POJK and West Pakistan refugees. He said those settled in other states got all the rights and WPRs settled in parts of Jammu would also get the same. Meanwhile, PDP chief spokesperson, Naeem Akhtar today cautioned the NDA Government against any arbitrary and hasty decision regarding settlement of West Pakistani refugees in the State. Mr Akhtar said no doubt this is humanitarian issue, yet it is complex and complicated. It is legacy of the partition and no decision on such a sensitive issue should be taken in haste as it could have repercussions. Government of India must desist from taking any decision over it unilaterally, Mr Akhtar said. The PDP leader said in the past the State had been under direct Central rule and even no Government including Congress and Janata Dal ever thought of going ahead unilaterally on this vital issue. There is no reason to go for hush-hush manner now. A general consensus is needed to tackle such issues, Mr Akhtar maintained.