Who are West Pakistani Refugees in Jammu and Kashmir?

This is not the first time the Article 35A is in headlines, some refugees of West Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir have moved to Supreme Court challenging Article 35A relating to special rights and privileges of permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

The petition claimed that since 1947, the refugees had been given repeated assurances by successive governments but never given Permanent Resident Certificates, thereby keeping them as refugees for over 65 years. The plea claimed that the refugees and their children were not allowed to hold any position higher than sweeper and the children were not entitled to gain education in government universities or avail themselves of any scholarship to gain education.West pakistan refugees in jammu

Who are the West Pakistan Refugees?

The refugees who migrated from Sialkot in West Punjab, Pakistan to J&K and other states of India in August 1947 are known as West Pakistan refugees or WPRs.

According to official data 5,764 families comprising 47,915 persons had migrated from West Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Jammu & Kashmir. Today their population increased to nearly 1.25 lakh.

These refugees, 90 per cent Hindus and 10 per cent Sikhs, mostly belonging to a category called ‘disadvantaged’, migrated en mass from west Pakistan and have been living in Jammu region since ,while others are settled in the Kathua ,Udhampur,RS pura, and Poonch areas of Jammu in dismal conditions, with state apathy towards their plight becoming accepted reality.

Problem faced by West Pakistan Refugees in Jammu and Kashmir

They cannot get admission in professional colleges of the state nor can they apply for government jobs. Besides this, being non-state subjects, they cannot own immovable property, including land. However, they have voting rights for parliamentary elections, and can get jobs in the Central government, being citizens of India. Their counterparts throughout India – those who fled Pakistan at the time of partition – already enjoy full citizenship rights.

Reason for not getting Privileges as a permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir

The West Pakistan refugees were not original residents of the erstwhile state of J&K. Only persons born in undivided Jammu and Kashmir or descended from such persons are entitled to permanent residency rights in the state.

Why state domicile rights matter

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Permanent Resident Certificates would permit them to purchase properties and own a house, opportunity to get a government job and reservation benefits and a right to vote in State and municipal elections.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee recommended granting citizenship and compensation to the west Pakistani refugees.

Controversy

The separatist camp and some political parties are against the Permanent Resident Certificates to West Pakistan Refugees.

They say they are not against rehabilitation of the refugees and support their demands on humanitarian grounds and urge the government to provide them all the rights they are eligible to.

They are of opinion that India is a huge country with more than 30 states/(UTs) and WPRs can be settled in any of the states. But settling them in J&K will “jeopardise and erode its historical and political contours.