By Arif Qureshi
A new controversy triggered in Jammu and Kashmir over the issuing of identity certificates to thousands of refugees from west Pakistan by BJP-PDP coalition Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The issuing of identity certificates will enable them to get jobs in Central government departments. Both All Parties Hurryiat conference (APHC) and National Conference are protesting against the Mahboba Mufti’s move. But the state government made it clear that the refugees have been issued only identity certificates not state subject certificates under special article of 370. These refugees, mostly Hindus who migrated into the state during and after the 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars, have no citizenship rights in the state. They can vote in parliamentary elections but have no right to vote in the assembly polls. They cannot apply for jobs with the state government because they are not permanent residents, according to the state’s statutory provisions.
India thinks one day or other it may have to accept the demand of Kashmiri people right of self determination according to the United Nations resolutions. And if India allows exercising plebiscite at this juncture it may be the losing side. The reason is Muslim majority of Kashmir will cast their support in the favor of Pakistan and then India have no accuse to keep Kashmir as its part after UN referendum. So not only BJP all the political forces in India were trying secretly from decades how they can change the demography and religious and ethnic identity of Kashmir in Indian favor. Indian political parties and security establishment were afraid to public this design But that was public by BJB in 2014 election as they kept the plan in its election manifesto with commitment to abolish special status of Kashmir under article 370 of the Indian constitution. BJP also promised to the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the valley and steps to “address long-pending problems and demands of [Hindu] refugees from Pakistan controlled Kashmir”.
BJP’s intentions became clearer from the party’s campaign strategy for elections to the state assembly held in 2015 and from the ‘vision document’ it released shortly before those polls. In the Jammu area, the BJP stressed its promise to end “regional imbalance” in state politics. And BJP also made it clear to PDP chief late Mufti Muhammad Saeed before formation of a coalition government that it will stand firm in the demand for ‘regional imbalance’, and that was promised by Mufti Saeed. The Legislative Assembly of Indian controlled Kashmir has total 111 seats. Kashmir valley have 46 seats, Jammu region comprised 37 seats and Ladakh region 4 member. Two women seats are mandatory if Governor of Jammu and Kashmir feels that women are not properly accommodated. The whole proposed plan of BJP surrounds around the remaining 24 seats which according to Indian Kashmir constitution placed for those who had migrated form Pakistan controlled Kashmir during partition, 1947 and for area which Pakistan has established Azad Kashmir Government.
BJP’s in its manifesto have charted out three way strategy to convert the demographic and political balance in favor of the Hindu population of Jammu and Kashmir. First, it promised to reserve three out of the 46 seats allocated to the valley in the 87-member state assembly for the Kashmiri Pandits. Second, the BJP promised to reserve five seats for Hindu refugees who migrated from “Pakistan controlled Kashmir”, during partition in 1947. That would bring the total number of seats reserved for Hindus to eight. Third, the BJP promised the grant of “citizenship rights” to “refugees from West Pakistan”, including the right to vote in state assembly and local elections, the right to own immovable property and the right to take government jobs.
In January 2015, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) headed by P Bhattacharya, recommended granting citizenship and voting rights to West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir. That JPC was comprised the 31-member panel did not have a single member from Jammu and Kashmir, as the state has 10 members in the parliament—six in Lok Sabha and four in Rajya Sabha. Originally those recommendations were charted out by BJP leader Venkaya Naidu on September 1, 2014. After the Recommendation by Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Tarun Vijay last year (2015) floated the idea of implantation as to set up Sainik colonies in Srinagar to accommodate soldiers and families of those killed in the line of duty. in April 2015, the Rajya Sainik Board (RSB), headed by Governor N. N. Vohra, had approved establishment of a Sainik colony close to Srinagar’s old airport and subsequently 21.6 acres of land were identified in Srinagar and neighboring Budgam district for it. But According to a law passed by dogra ruler in 1927 before the partition the Maharaja had enacted a law under which no outsider can settle there. Since the refugees belonged to Pakistan, they couldn’t be granted the state subject status. As the refugees from West Pakistan are citizens of India. Under Indian law they can vote in elections to the Indian parliament but they are not ‘state subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir. Because of this law, the ‘West Pakistan refugees’ cannot vote for the state assembly. Also, they cannot own land in the state or take jobs in the state government.
APHC and other pro-Indian political parties pressing PDP not to approve the recommendation of Indian government Kashmiris leadership also expressed the fear that the grant of the status of state subject or permanent resident, which is almost identical – to the ‘West Pakistan refugees’ is the thin end of the wedge and would open the door also to those who have been brought to Kashmir from Indian states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Bengal and Kerala and settled in the Jammu region under a well-thought out plan to bring about demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir and dispossess and dis-empowered the Kashmiris. But if PDP government does not approve these recommendations then the only way forward for Indian government to impose governor rule for approval. One cam simply support the due rights of people who have been deprived from their rights but the way adopted by BJP clearly showed that they wanted to sabotage the Kashmiri people’s struggle through this plan. That is why All Parties Hurryiat conference (APHC) and pro-Indian parties like National Conference headed by Umar Abdullah are against giving them citizenship rights to West Pakistan refugees. During the recent unrest Pakistan also accused India of deliberately altering the demographic makeup of Jammu and Kashmir by settling non-state citizens in Indian-controlled Kashmir and turning its Muslim majority into a minority. But it is not enough Pakistan will have to take a clear position and mere statement will not be enough. The government of Pakistan must take up this matter bilaterally with India and raise it forcefully in the UN and other international forums.
The Writer is an Islamabad based Free Lancer Journalist; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org