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news details
Union, state governments yet to act on 1987 SC suggestions
West Pakistani refugee issue
1/17/2019 10:04:33 PM
Early Times Report
JAMMU, Jan 17: The creation of Pakistan out of India in August 1947 caused displacement of population on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of Muslims migrated to Pakistan and millions of non-Muslims, including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, migrated from Pakistan to India to escape liquidation and save their dignity, religion and culture.
Those who migrated to India, barring Jammu & Kashmir, became full-fledged Indians and some even rose to such high positions as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, those who migrated to Jammu in 1947, continue to lead a wretched life even after 71 years of their stay in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Numbering approximately 1.5 lakh, an overwhelming majority of them is Dalit. They are Indian 'nationals' but not the 'citizens' of the State. They have neither the right to immovable property, to a Government job, to vote in the Assembly and local-bodies' elections, to bank loan nor even the right to higher technical and professional education. Of course, they have been participating in the Lok Sabha election since 1967, when the Election Commission of India held Lok Sabha elections for the first time.
Indeed, since 1947 and till date, these refugees have held numerous demonstrations in Jammu and Delhi, organised long marches, courted arrest and exhausted all constitutional methods of agitation to obtain 'citizenship rights'. Faced with official apathy, they even approached the Supreme Court in 1982, but failed to obtain justice because Jammu & Kashmir enjoyed special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Disposing of the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 7698 of 1982 on February 20, 1987, the Supreme Court said it was "unable to give any relief to the petitioner".
The operative part of the judgement reads: "In view of the peculiar constitutional position obtaining in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, we do not see what possible relief we can give to the petitioner and those situated like him. All that we can say is that the position of the petitioner and those like him is anomalous and it is up to the legislature of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to take action to amend legislations, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act,1957, the Land Alienation Act, the Village Panchayat Act, etc so as to make persons like the petitioner who have migrated from West Pakistan in 1947 and who have settled down in the State of Jammu & Kashmir since then, eligible to be included in the electoral roll, to acquire land, to be elected to the panchayats, etc etc.
"This can be done by suitably amending the legislations without having to amend the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution. In regard to providing employment opportunities under the State Government, it can be done by the Government by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Civil Services, Classification and Control and Appeal Rules. In regard to admission to higher technical educational institutions, the Government may make these persons eligible by issuing appropriate executive directions without even having to introduce any legislation.
"The petitioners have a justifiable grievance. Surely they are entitled to expect to be protected by the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In the peculiar context of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, the Union of India also owes an obligation to make some provisions for the advancement of the cultural, economic and educational rights of these persons. We do hope that the claims of the persons like the petitioner and others to exercise greater rights of citizenship will receive due consideration from the Union of India and the State of Jammu & Kashmir. We are, however, unable to give any relief to the petitioner".
Though the Supreme Court did not give any relief to the petitioner, it did suggest the ways and means of redressing some the grievances of the refugees.
But neither the State nor the Union Government thought it desirable to act on the suggestions as contained in the judgement for obvious reasons, the most important being the oft-repeated argument of Kashmiri leadership that granting citizenship rights to the refugees would mean a change in the State's demographic profile, erosion of its autonomous status and alienation of Kashmiri Muslims from India. Expectedly, the Union Government sided with the Kashmiri leadership overlooking the 'human angle'. That attitude persists even today and this has angered the hapless refugees with their leader Labha Ram Gandhi threatening that they would migrate from Jammu in case they were not granted citizenship rights in Jammu.
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