January 2016 News

West Pak Refugees Move SC For Basic Rights

1 January 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Dinesh Manhotra

Jammu: As repeated assurances of the successive state and Central governments have proved a mere 'lip service' for them, the West Pakistan refugees have finally approached the Supreme Court for justice. 'We were left with no option but to approach the apex court to get basic human rights which are being denied to us for the last 68 years by the successive state governments,' said Labha Ram Gandhi, chairman of the West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee. 'We are being deprived of fundamental rights under the cover of the so-called special status being granted to J&K,' he added. Asha Kumari, who was denied permission to continue her higher studies, and Vishal Kumar, who was disallowed to go for a technical course, have filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court. The chairman of the West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee and a refugee youth, who did his doctorate in social science, are also the petitioners in the writ. 'The writ has been admitted and the first hearing of the petition is likely to be held in the second week of January,' said Gandhi, adding that they were also the victims of Article 35 (A), already being challenged in the apex court by some NGOs. The West Pakistan refugees, who have been living in the Jammu region since 1947, are agitating to get citizenship rights but the Kashmir-centric political groups have been opposing their demands, taking the excuse of the special status of the state. Last year, a ray of hope was rekindled among the refugees, a majority of whom are the Dalits, when the BJP formed a coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party in the state. 'We were hoping that the BJP will take some concrete step to address our issues once and for all when the party is in power at the Centre as well as in the state,' said Gandhi. Nothing has been done in the last one year, he added. During the 2014 Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections in J&K, the BJP had promised citizenship rights to the refugees but the promises have remained only on paper. A total of 25,262 registered families of West Pakistan refugees are living in various parts of the Jammu region since 1947. At the time of Partition in 1947, refugees from West Pakistan had entered Jammu and Kashmir with a hope that they would be given all democratic rights. Even after more than six decades, the refugees have no voting rights for the Legislative Assembly, no citizenship rights, no ration card and no Permanent Resident Certificate. They cannot apply for government jobs and neither can they purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir.