BY: SAJJAD AHMAD WANI
West Pakistan Refugees in Jammu and Kashmir settled mainly in the Jammu division. But, there was tremendous discrimination and suffering suffered by them due to prevailing of article 370, and successive Governments of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State had added to their woes and miseries by step motherly attitude. It was an unbelievable ordeal that had many cruel facets for them.
As matter of fact, West Pakistan Refugees were settled only in the border areas of Jammu, where constant cease-fire violations made their lives a living hell. They were not permanent citizens and were unable to get decent education or procure government jobs due to the discriminatory clauses of Article 35A.
On the other hand he Valmikis, whose forefathers were brought from Punjab for scavenging, were bound by the discriminatory Article 35A could not take up any other jobs if they wanted to hold on to their citizenship.
The injustice to the refugees finally ended last year when Article 370 and 35A were revoked. The West Pakistan refugees were now able to become the domiciles of J&K as per the new domicile law. The government had also promised them financial assistance which is being fulfilled by providing them cash assistance from time to time.
West Pakistan Refugees or WPRs comprise members of Hindu and Sikh communities, who had migrated from erstwhile West Punjab (now Pakistan) after partition in 1947. They settled mainly in border areas of Jammu and while they participated in the parliamentary polls, the refugees had till now never voted for any form of elections in the former state as they were not considered state subjects.
As per official data, 5764 families popularly known as WPRs settled down in various parts of Jammu in 1947. Presently, the number of West Pakistan refugees has increased to over 20,000 families or four lakh persons.
Apart from WPRs, Valmikis (Dalits) who were brought to J&K in 1975 from Punjab by then state government were given permanent resident certificates but they had to abide by the condition that their future generations could stay in J&K if they continue to be scavengers and safai karamcharis.
Jammu and kashmir after abrogation has started to give justice to these West Pakistan Refugees and Valmiki Dalits especially the all important right to vote.
After the abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 last August, West Pakistani Refugees (WPRs) and Valmiki community in the Union Territory were seen voting for the first time in their lives during the first ever district development council (DDC) polls.
President of Pakistan Refugees Action Committee Laba Ram Gandhi had led the celebrations and danced with other members of the community when they first voted in their lives after the abrogation of article 370.
The pulse of villagers was amazing as one of them while talking to prestigious media outlet had stated that they thank and are highly grateful to Modi ji and Amit Shah ji. “They have done justice with us. We were living as unwanted citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. We had no rights, from voting to getting jobs. Now we are proud citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Now our children will get all the rights,” he had said in joyous tone.
Even the temple of democracy Parliament of India recognized the importance of giving rights to West Pakistani refugees and Valmiki Dalits.
Last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday said refugees from West Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) have been provided domicile certificates in Jammu and Kashmir.
Replying to a discussion on Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill of 2021 in Lok Sabha, Mr Shah said the Opposition is asking what the NDA Government has done for Jammu and Kashmir since 2019 and asked what ruling parties in Jammu and Kashmir could do in the last 70 years.
“Pakistan, West Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir refugees along with 2642 Valmiki families, 592 Gurkhas and 43 other families have been provided domicile certificates,” he said.
The pain of West Pakistan refugees was unsolved question of the Partition of country as they had continued to be remained in dark corridors of pain and suffering. The need to make them part of Mainstream and provide them all the facilities as being the citizens of this great country was need of the hour. The abrogation of article 370 has ended long dark night of West Pakistan refugees and valmiki Dalits.