SRINAGAR: The recommendation made by a Parliamentary Panel to Jammu and Kashmir government for granting citizenship rights to West Pakistani refugees living in the state since 1947 has kicked up a storm in the Valley, with the mainstream and separatist politicians opposing the move. National Conference general secretary. Ali Mohammad Sagar termed the panel’s recommendations “antistate”.” Such recommendations are aimed at changing the demography of J&K. They are unacceptable,” he said, adding that it was a wicked conspiracy to tamper with the state’s special status. The PDP, which has emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly elections with 28 seats and is engaged in back-channel talks with the BJP for government formation, has also opposed the move.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs headed by Congress member P Bhattacharya has recommended that the Centre must impress upon J&K government to consider sympathetically the West Pakistani refugees’ demand to grant them the status of permanent residents of the state, so that they could live in a dignity with all legal rights, including the right to exercise franchise. It had also recommended that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) shall pursue with J&K government the possibility of granting reservation in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council for West Pakistani refugees and if necessary might even amend the state’s Constitution. “The committee’s recommendations are no less than a catastrophe for the people of Kashmir,” independent legislator Langate Engineer Sheikh Abdur Rashid said.
Alleging that the BJP-NDA Government wanted to change the state’s demography, he warned that his party -- Awami Ittihaad Party (AIP) -- would launch a statewide agitation if the Centre decided to go ahead with the recommendations. The legislator urged the mainstream and separatist politicians to join hands against the BJP’s sinister plan. Over 5,700 families have migrated from Pakistan and settled in different areas of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts. Another legislator and chairman of Peoples Democratic Front Hakeem Yasin warned that the proposal could have serious consequences.
“The West Pakistan refugees were never residents of the state and there is no legal or Constitutional obligation to provide them with Permanent Residence Certificates,” he said, adding that Kashmiris won’t allow anyone to fiddle with the state’s demography.