It was on 6 December 2016 that a great news of sorts broke for the first time in 70 years for the suffering Hindu (mostly Dalit) and Sikh refugees from Pakistan – all leading a wretched life in Jammu and its Kathua and Samba districts, since their migration in the wake of the communal partition of India. It said the Jammu & Kashmir government will issue domicile certificates and Scheduled Caste certificates to them and there will be reservation for them in the Central forces, including five battalions of Indian Reserve Force, which were being raised in Jammu & Kashmir (Daily Excelsior, 6 December).
Notwithstanding the fact that they had been demanding full-citizenship rights in Jammu & Kashmir ever since their migration from Sialkot and surrounding villages in the then West Pakistan, the thrilled refugees celebrated the day as a day of thanksgiving. They expressed hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign held out a solemn commitment that the refugees from Pakistan shall be granted citizenship rights, will one day surely grant them all their natural rights in Jammu & Kashmir, including the right to property, right to vote in the Assembly and local body elections, right to government jobs, right to higher education and right to a bank loan. They said in joy that “a good beginning has been made by taking a decision on issuing domicile and Scheduled Caste certificates to them” (The Tribune, 10 December).
However, it was on 20 December that the designated or the authorised Naib-Tehsildars in Jammu province started issuing domicile certificates to the refugees.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pawan Kotwal said: “Following the orders of the government of India, the state government has authorised Naib-Tehsildars to issue domicile certificates to the West Pakistan refugees in which it is mentioned that they came from Pakistan and at present reside in Jammu & Kashmir at such and such address. The refugees were facing problems while applying for Central government jobs. The government of India found a way out and issued an order to the state government to issue certificates to the West Pakistan refugees with a specific format mentioning that they reside in Jammu & Kashmir. This was not a permanent resident certificate (PRC) but just an authentication that the West Pakistan refugees reside in Jammu & Kashmir”.
The clarification given by Kotwal was unambiguous and he left no scope for vested interests in Kashmir to interpret the decision taken purely on humanitarian grounds to mitigate some of the hardships faced by the refugees whose “life was not one of political and economic aspirations but of toil and penury”.
It was hoped that Kashmiri leaders, both mainstream and separatist, will appreciate the spirit behind the rather belated decision and not raise a hue and cry considering their own no-holds-barred propaganda about the sanctity of human rights. But this was not to be. They took no time to denounce the state government and the Union government for the otherwise humane approach to the 70-year-old human problem and in one voice said that an insidious influence was at work to change the Muslim-majority character and constitutional character of Jammu & Kashmir. They termed the decision a deep-rooted conspiracy.
Self-elected chairman of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) Shabbir Ahmad Shah, the so-called Nelson Mandela of Kashmir, was the first to oppose the decision. “The government’s move of issuing the domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees is a well-planned conspiracy against the Muslim majority status of Jammu & Kashmir. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by playing a major role in this regard has exposed its anti-Kashmir stance. This is a well-planned conspiracy of saffron brigade and PDP. The Mufti-led government is so obsessed with power that it doesn’t consider even its own consequences… The people of the state (read Kashmiri-speaking well-entrenched Sunnis) will resist such move tooth and nail,” he said (Greater Kashmir, 21 December, Latest News).
Immediately thereafter, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik also took the plunge. They issued a joint statement, which, besides rejecting outright the decision of the Union government and its compliance by the Jammu & Kashmir government, also asked the people of Kashmir to strike work on Friday (23 December).
The atrocious statement, inter-alia, read like this: “Issuing domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees, Supreme Court verdict on Jammu & Kashmir over Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, (SARFAESI Act), are the challenges to the sovereignty of Jammu & Kashmir. Allowing outside banks to confiscate and hold properties in Jammu & Kashmir are the issues of life and death for our existence as Muslims and Kashmiris. The PDP has again started working on its anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim agenda but people of Jammu & Kashmir will not hesitate to offer any sacrifice to oppose such actions tooth and nail. These maneuvers (are) an attempt to change the demography of Jammu & Kashmir”.
It was independent MLA from Langate, Er Rasheed, a known Pakistani, who abused New Delhi and the Jammu & Kashmir government all the more. He, in a most brazen manner, said that Delhi was conducting itself in Kashmir like Israel had been conducting itself in Palestine and also asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti either to snap ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or step down in the interest of Kashmir.
Asking Mufti to “break her ties” with the BJP and step down without “befooling the people further,” Rasheed said: “The move to grant domicile to lakhs of West Pakistan refugees is a calculated move to change the demography of the state. The government of India is doing exactly the same what Israelis did in Palestine… Mehbooba Mufti is bulldozing the rights of the majority community and breaking all the previous records of traitors since 1947” (Rising Kashmir, 22 December).
Not content with what the separatists of all hues said about the hapless refugees, the Narendra Modi Government and the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition, the main opposition National Conference (NC) and the Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief also took the plunge in a most shameful and insensitive manner.
“Since the issue (issuance of domicile certificates) was debatable, the Chief Minister should have called an all-party meeting on it. It was the PDP which was vehemently opposing granting of domicile certificate to West Pakistan refugees,” JKPCC chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said. “Granting of domicile to West Pakistan refugees is an attack on the state’s special position,” he, in fact, said (Greater Kashmir, 22 December).
The NC general secretary and former law minister Ali Mohammad Sagar also spoke the separatists’ language and said the decision to grant citizenship rights was an attack on the state’s special position.
“This move is aimed at changing demography of Jammu & Kashmir. They (BJP) want to reduce the Muslim majority of the state into minority. New Delhi is calling shots in Kashmir. We feel pity on Mehbooba Mufti’s helplessness before state BJP and the Centre. The BJP’s candid admission that the move will pave the way for granting state subject rights to West Pakistan refugees, exposes the nefarious designs behind the move,” he, among other things, said (Greater Kashmir, 22 December).
It needs to emphasised that all the refugees from Pakistan reside in Jammu and not one in Kashmir or Ladakh. That all the Kashmiri leaders, separatists and the so-called mainstream Kashmiri leaders (all Sunni) joined hands and spoke in one voice or opposed as one man the humanitarian decision only demonstrated the height of their insensitivity and their contempt for the Hindus and Sikhs.
One thing is absolutely clear: Kashmiri leaders, without any exception, are not just separatist and half-separatist, but they are also rabidly anti-Jammu and anti-Hindu. New Delhi should understand this stark reality and take a final decision that frees Jammu and Ladakh from the 70-year-old Kashmiri Sunni rule. Why should they groan under the yoke of Kashmiri Sunnis rule when they hate them and also long for forcing down their throat their pernicious solution based on the two-nation concept? Enough is enough.
Hari Om Mahajan is former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Jammu.
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