Settling' WP Refugees: JKLF Takes Agitation To Streets

16 January 2015
Greater Kashmir
Arif Shafi Wani

Srinagar: Massive clashes erupted at Maisuma locality here on Friday when police used force to quell a protest march by the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Muhammad Yasin Malik against the Government of India's plan to 'permanently settle' the West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir. The JKLF had organized the protest sit-in in the backdrop of recommendations by the Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs to grant Jammu & Kashmir Permanent Resident (State Subject) Status to refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan who are otherwise non-state subjects. Soon after the congregational Friday prayers, a large number of people assembled at Maisuma to join Malik's sit-in and protest march, in LalChowk. While the procession led by Malik marched towards LalChowk, a large contingent of police cordoned the area, sealing all exit points of Maisuma. Police intercepted the procession at BudshahChowk and tried to take Malik into custody. However some youth formed a human chain around the JKLF Chairman and had a fistfight with the cops. Despite stiff resistance by the youth, police detained Malik and bundled him in an armored vehicle. Shouting pro-freedom and anti-government slogans, some youth climbed atop the police vehicle, but cops cane-charged them, whisking away Malik and other JKLF leaders to the Kothibagh police station. The situation took a violent turn after Malik's detention as a large number of youth assembled at Maisuma and pelted stones on police. After more reinforcements were rushed to the spot, police lobbed several tear smoke shells to disperse the protestors. The clashes continued for several hours while shops and business establishments remained closed in the area. Reports said at least 10 persons were injured, two of them critically, in the clashes. Two persons identified as Abdul Hamid and Azhar Ahmad sustained critical injuries after being hit by teargas canisters on the face and head respectively. They have been hospitalized, reports said. Earlier, talking to reporters Malik said 'we will defend the special status of Jammu Kashmir. We won't hesitate to sacrifice our lives to fight all those forces who want to change the demography of the state to turn its Muslim-majority into minority.' 'Settlement of West Pakistan refugees in J&K in not a matter of Hindu versus Muslims or Jammu versus Kashmir. It concerns identity and rights of the people of the state. However, radical religious fanatics in India are trying to communalize the issue. I want to tell them that State Subject law was enacted by none other than the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh to safeguard fragile ecology and identity of the state,' he said. Elaborating, Malik said, J&K is blessed with forests, glaciers, water bodies and wetlands and these natural resources are protected throughout the world. He said besides Jammu and Kashmir, the State Subject law is also in force in many hilly states of India including Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram to safeguard their ecology. 'The Maharaja of Jammu Kashmir enacted the law prohibiting outsiders from permanently residing in Jammu Kashmir to save the state from turning into a desert. Even the law disallows girls of J&K to inherit property if they marry an outsider or non-state subject,' he said. Malik said in 1947 'chauvinist forces and religious fanatics massacred lakhs of Muslims to destroy this special status of J&K and change Muslim majority status of Jammu into minority.' 'Properties of those massacred or driven out forcefully to Azad Kashmir were confiscated and when state assembly in 1982 passed a resolution regarding those people, the Indian state opposed and halted the resolution. Condemnable conspiracies hatched at the behest of RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS) and its allies under the garb of religion will be foiled at any cost,' he said. Malik maintained that 'as humans we also share the pain of refugees from West Pakistan.' 'However, if the Indian state, its parliament and political parties are concerned about them why do not they settle them permanently in states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh? Why is India hell bent upon destroying Jammu and Kashmir, its ecology and special status only?' he asked. 'The refugees from West Pakistan are in every respect the citizens of India. They are not part of J&K and will never be so in future also. Granting them permanent citizenship of Jammu Kashmir, right to vote, is a conspiracy to destroy the existing social fabric, demography and majority Muslim status,' he said. 'People of Jammu Kashmir will never remain silent spectators to these conspiracies and we will defend the special status of Jammu Kashmir, its Muslim character, its ecology and environment even at the cost of our lives,' he said. On the occasion, the JKLF Chairman said the party will raise awareness about the issue to build public opinion. 'We are closely monitoring the plans of Government of India on the WP refugees. We will continue our resistance against these conspiracies by holding protests, sit-ins, processions, seminars and other programs in all districts of Jammu Kashmir to safeguard the special status of Jammu Kashmir,' he said. Meanwhile, a JKLF spokesperson condemned police action on Malik's procession. 'Police resorted to cane-charging and unprecedented pepper gas shelling causing injuries to dozens of participants including JKLF activists Abdul Hamid who has been hit by a shell in his face and Azhar Ahmad, who has been hit by a shell on his head. We also condemn the arrest of our Chairman and other leaders including Muhammad Sideeq Shah, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, Bashir Ahmad Kashmiri, Bashir Ahmad Boya and Imtiyaz Ahmad,' he said. Meanwhile, the chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) ParveenaAhangar, who participated in the JKLF procession, fell unconscious amid teargas shelling, reports said.