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Refugees resent Government apathy

Staff Reporter

They are angry that a committee formed to look their problems has been wound up

Jammu : Refugees from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and West Pakistan settled in Jammu and Kashmir have taken exception to the Government's apathy to their plight.

Talking to reporters, Rajiv Chunni, chairman of SOS, an organisation representing PoK refugees, expressed resentment at the decision to wind up a committee formed to find a solution to their problems. According to Mr. Chunni, they had expected the Government to look into the issue from a humanitarian angle. But it seemed to have surrendered to the politicians who had taken a narrow view of the issue.Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had called an all-party meet last month to resolve the problem. A controversy broke out then with the parties taking divergent positions on the issue. The committee formed to look into the issue could make no headway as some parties said they would not allow any move which would give West Pakistan refugees Permanent Resident Certificate rights, arguing that it was unconstitutional.

A Permanent Resident Status (PRS) or State subject status is given to people whose ancestors have lived in the State for at least 10 years before May 14, 1954. Only those with PRS can buy property, get employment and are entitled to other privileges.

PoK refugees came to the State after communal riots broke out there in 1947. The refugees were not given full compensation for the properties they abandoned. The logic is that once the PoK territory returns to India's control, the lands could be restored to them. West Pakistan refugees comprise 3,000 families, mostly Dalits, who came from the neighbouring Sialkot district of Pakistan in 1947. Though they enjoy citizenship, this group does not fulfil the criterion that their ancestors must have lived in the State for at least 10 years before May 14, 1954. They are, therefore, legally non-State subjects and do not have voting rights.

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