March 2017 News

Migration Row: 4,000 Files Pending, But Govt Gives 'priority' To Fresh Cases

15 March 2017
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu: Although the state government has shown urgency in starting registration of new migrants from the Valley, nearly 4,000 Kashmiri Pandit families affected by militancy are running from pillar to post for years to get the migrant status. The PDP-BJP coalition had issued orders in October 2016, allowing fresh registration of families from the Valley under the migrant category, angering Pandits and people of Jammu. They claimed that the government was trying to change demography of the region and dilute issues of displaced Hindus who were forced to leave the Valley by militants in 1990s. The process was stopped in 2008 so as to discourage migration of people from the militancy infested Valley. A senior official in the Relief Organisation admitted that thousands of files were pending, despite CID clearances which were necessary to authenticate that the Pandit families belonging to the Valley had migrated in 1990s. There are allegations that hundreds of ration cards submitted for bifurcation have been denied approval while files pertaining for fresh registration, mostly of Muslim families, are being cleared on a fast-track basis. In many instances, the Relief Organisation has forwarded the files to respective district administrations in Kashmir for background checks. However, the files are gathering dust in the offices. 'My file is pending for the past five years in the Kulgam Deputy Commissioner's office for clearance. I was registered as a migrant in 1990 but my ration card was cancelled a few years ago on the pretext that I was working outside Jammu. Since I shifted back and applied for registration, the process has been stalled on one pretext or the other,' said Sohan Lal from Kulgam district. As per the record of the Union Home Ministry, there are 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families. About 40,000 registered families are residing in Jammu; about 19,338 are in Delhi and about 1,995 families are settled in other states. Of these only 19,000 families, which include hundreds of Sikhs and Muslims, are getting the benefits. A majority of migrants were farmers, traders or were doing odd jobs in the Valley but migration left them with no means to survive in camps in Jammu and other parts of the country. 'We have orchards in the Tral area of south Kashmir but after migration a local villager is taking all produce. We are not able to sell or do farming ourselves after we fled to Jammu. The government aid is our only source of survival,' said Sunny Bhat, who has applied for the bifurcation of the ration card in 2015 after he got married. The BJP is under fire for its silence on the fresh migration order and resentment is growing against the party in its traditional support base in the Jammu region. The party said it would oppose the move. 'Our commitment is dignified return of all displaced Kashmiri Pandits and others with their rights intact. We cannot encourage fresh migration from the Valley,' said BJP MLC Surinder Amberdar. Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation Abdul Rehman Veeri said the government had already directed the Relief Organisation to clear files on merit. 'Every pending file will be cleared as per existing rules and process is being streamlined. We have directed the officials to look into the issue so that Pandits don't face problems'.