Domicile Row

16 mins read


Asem Mohiuddin/ Seema Nargotra

WPR’s Protesting in Jammu for PRC

Jammu: Some 25 kilometres away from the city center Jammu in Ranbir Singh Pora, a crowd of few hundred people have gathered in main chowk. The crowd including men and women are cheering, celebrating the success of long drawn battle. They are holding garlands and banners in their hands to greet the political leaders and social activists who fought for them.  

“This is the happiest day of our life. We won half of our battle. For 70 years, we lived the life of refugees and today partially we are recognised as the citizens of country after state government ordered to issue domicile certificate for us,” says 60 year old Darshan Lal.

Darshan Lal is leading the crowd and says the aim of gathering at this place is to thank all those who stood by them during their battle for “human rights”.     

In absence of Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC), these West Pak refugees have been going through immense troubles and had seen their life stagnated for over seventy years. They are ineligible for government jobs besides are unable to pursue higher studies for want of PRC.

Owing to non availability of PRC rights, these people are largely surviving on the farming over a chunk of land allotted by the state government to each family. Besides they also work as manual labours to sustain their livelihood. Ironically, this refugee community has no person who had pursued the higher education due to non availability of PRC. 

“Times have changed globally and if you live in any country for five years, you are entitled for citizenship. But even after 70 years we live the life of refugees,” says Shubham a class 12th science student. 

Shubham aims high and wants to settle down in Europe to explore the greener pastures in his life. Since he needs to go for higher studies for his promising career, he is ineligible for admission in higher educational institutes given to non availability of PRC.

“Our two generations have almost wasted their lives while working as labours, mechanics and farmers. They have immensely suffered and now it is our turn to suffer in same way,” Shubham rues.

The state government says that the population of WPR is 3 lakh and are settled in Samba, RS Pora and some other parts of Jammu region. Facing intense pressure form New Delhi the state government headed by Mehbooba Mufti  issued the domicile certificate to these victims of 1947 partition in an order to ensure their dignified living and to get them entitled for central government jobs and other benefits. The certificate, however, doesn’t make them eligible to cast their ballot in local elections or acquire any government jobs in state quota. 

However, the 0ngoign agitation from the separatist’s camp back in strife torn Kashmir and opposition also from some other mainstream political leaders left this population perplexed. The valley based some political parties and the separatist camp have been rallying on the streets of Srinagar against the government decision and strongly opposing the move. “My parents ran away to this side of divided line to save their lives when bloody partition took place. I was born here to my parents and we live here for seventy years,” says Charandas. “But we are denied the right to live here.”

“This certificate is only making us eligible for central government jobs and other benefits. But I am shocked why our human tragedy is politicized,” Charandas adds.

Charandas is also ill-convinced with the Jammu based political parties though they support their demand for PRC and domicile certificate.  “Which religion teaches you to punish human beings like this? No ill treatment is allowed to any human being in any religion,” he says. He says the Jammu based political parties are equally exploiting them to garner the political lineage. “We don’t even believe that they are sincere in addressing our issues. They shout loud to get heard to settle the political points.”

 But the refugees want consensus to be build among all political parties and social groups above the faith and social lines. “We appeal all those leaders irrespective of their political faith to decide our fate on humanitarian grounds. We are not here by choice,” says another 60 year old refugee Surinder Kumar.   

Ironically, this community down the line of seventy years has failed to produce any graduate student forget about having professionals and bureaucrats. The education of their children ends up at class 12. 

“For further studies they need to produce Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) that we don’t have and we are forced to stop our children from pursuing further studies,” says Kumar. 

The major source of livelihood for the community is farming and government had allotted these families a piece of land for the purpose. They, however, claim that they are bereft of ownership rights, therefore, can’t even seek the financial assistance by the banks. The houses built over the land even are not getting permission for the renovation and expansion.

“All the farmers receive financial dolls from government to uplift their life. But we can’t get since it needs the necessary documentation including PRC,” says Jeet Raj.

Plot To Change States Demography

Er. Rashid mainstream politician protesting in Srinagar against domicile certificate to WPR’s/ Photo: Zahir Farooq

The mainstream political leader from valley Sheikh Abdur Rashid vows to continue the fight against the government decision of granting them domicile certificate. He wants them to be deported back to Pakistan.

“Prime minster Narender Modi says that all who settled in Assam from Bangladesh must be deported back. Similarly, the Rohingya Muslims living in Jammu and at other places must be deported. Why to legally settle these West Pak refugees in a disputed territory,” He says. He said he will continue to raise voice against it and will take the matter in the ongoing assembly session. 

 He appeals Pakistan also to invite these refugees back to their ancestral homes. “We are done with our hospitality. Let Pakistan take them back.”

The separatist camp headed by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Mallik resolved to fight tooth and nail against the government’s decision of offering domicile certificate to the refugees.

“India is a huge country with 30 states and if they are sincere, honest and feel the sufferings of these refugees, they can settle them in any of their states, but settling them in a disputed land of Jammu and Kashmir will jeopardize and erode its historical and political contours, which is not acceptable to us at any cost,” the joint statement of Huriyat conference read. They have led many protest marches across valley and also called for Kashmir bandh on last Friday.

The separatists accused PDP of appeasing the coalition partner to secure and enjoy the power. “Let us remind and caution these stooges not to put the valley to flames of destruction and bloodshed for appeasing their coalition partners,”

The main opposition political party, National Conference terms the move of issuing domicile certificate “unacceptable”. The party said that plight of refugees is exploited by all those who ignored their day to today sufferings.  

“These belated sympathisers of the West Pakistan refugees have never done anything to help them in the pursuit of their day-to-day challenges and are exploiting the issue only to serve their own political interests. While we have always empathised with the refugees and will continue to do so, there is no denying the fact that they are not and cannot become the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir. Any efforts by the state government to the contrary will be unconstitutional and illegal,” the party patron Farooq Abdullah said.

The BJP which is pleading case of WPR’s says that all that what is possible to offer them under the constitution of J&K will be given. The party said that there is no question of sending the refugees back to Pakistan as they live here for long seventy years.

“Our opinion is that WPRs are staying in J&K for 70 years. Whatever is possible within the confine of J&K constituency, we should give it to them and nobody should have any problem on it.” State BJP Chief Spokesman, Sunil Sethi, told New Delhi based Newspaper. 

The politics, however, over the grant of PRC to this community dates back to 1975-76 when the then Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had assured them PRC.

Sansar Chand of Chak Jaffar says that    In 1975–76, Sheikh Abdullah had asked them to fill up forms for Permanent Resident Certificate. He states: “Around 2627 forms were filled when one Kehar Singh of Pul Bajjua in Sialkot, who was given land in Gurdaspur in exchange of his Malki land in Sialkot came to Jaffar Chak pretending as a refugee in Jammu and started spreading rumours that by filling these forms the land allotted to the refugees would be cancelled. Hence people became apprehensive and stopped filling up the forms and the process was stalled.”

Who are West Pak Refugees?

West Pak Refugee in a protest rally/Photo: JP Bandral

In 1947 when lakhs of people crossed from the either side of border during the partition, RS Pora was predominantly a Muslim area and the people crossed over to the Sialkot some 15 kilometres away from the village in Punjab province to settle in a newly created Muslim majority Pakistan following the mass exodus of Muslims from India. Similarly, the Hindu populace fearing the ill treatment at the hands of majority in Pakistan ran towards Jammu region to settle in Hindu dominated India.  

“For two weeks we stayed in Jammu city in search of shelter. But we didn’t find any shelter and finally the government decided to settle us down in this village which was evacuated by the Muslims,” recalls Sorna Devi 80 year old woman.

Sorna was a teenage girl when her parents migrated to Jammu and had witnessed many horrible scenes of bloody partition. “People threw their infants into the bushes when they were running for their lives. Some people would wait in the forests and at desolated places to kill innocents in the name of religion. Hundreds of families, according to Sorna threw their infants into the bushes or slit their throats to avoid the wrath of enemies.

Devi, however, said that the madness was prevailing from both the sides and the common people suffered the most.  She terms it as the worst catastrophic tragedy in the history of mankind where lakhs of people were killed in the name of religion. Similarly from many other areas of Punjab people also flee the newly carved state and took refuge in Jammu.

Trials and Tribulations

During the partition of India, the Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state and had not signed the instrument of accession with India until October when Pakistan backed tribals raided the state. On account of the provisions of State Notification No. L/84 dated 20 April 1927 and the State Notification No. 13/L dated 27 June 1932 issued by the then Maharaja of the State of J&K, which were subsequently incorporated in Section 6 of the Constitution of J&K, the West Pakistan refugees are not covered under any of the categories of the permanent residents provided for by Section 6 of the Constitution of J&K. So they have not been conferred the status of permanent residents of the State of J&K by the Government of J&K. As such, the West Pakistan refugees do not have the right to acquire any immovable property in the State, the right to employment under the State, the right to start an industry, the right to purchase transport vehicles, the right to higher technical education, the right to be elected to the State Assembly or a local body, etc.

In view of the same orders of the state government the petition in this regard was dismissed by the high court demanding PRC to these refugees.

“In the circumstances, in view of the constitutional position obtaining in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, we do not see what possible relief we can give to the petitioner and those situate like him. All 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 and Kashmir to amend legislations, such as the J&K Representation of the People Act, 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 and Kashmir since then, eligible to be included in the electoral roll, to acquire land, to be elected to the Panchayat, etc,” the court had observed.

“This can be done by suitably amending the legislations without having to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. In regard to providing employment opportunities under holding a permit by or under the authority of this law shall be deemed to be a citizen of India.” 

 In a response to the writ petition, the High Court issued the order dated 20 February 1987. “The State Government can be done by the government by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules. In regard to admission to higher technical educational institutions also, 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. We are told that they constitute nearly seven to eight percent of the population of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Surely they are entitled to be protected by the State of Jammu and Kashmir. In the peculiar context of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Union of India also owes an obligation to make some provision for the advancement of the cultural, economic and educational rights of these persons. We do hope that the claims of 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 and Kashmir. We are, however, unable to give any relief to the petitioners.

Expressing thus its inability to intervene into the matter, the judiciary threw the ball in the court of the Union Government and the Government of J&K to address the issues of the West Pakistan refugees. Union Government Initiatives Pursuant to the observations made by the Supreme Court, the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of J&K Affairs, in 1994 requested the Government of J&K to consider the case of said West Pakistan refugees to grant them the status of permanent residents of the State of J&K. However, the J&K Government refused to grant the status of permanent residents of the State of J&K to the said West Pakistan refugees. In the year 2000, Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of J&K Affairs put up the matter before Parliament to consider as to whether the said West Pakistan refugees can be granted the status of permanent residents of the State of J&K. Subsequently, in the year 2001, the then Home Minister, L. K. Advani, requested the Government of J&K to consider the case of West Pakistan refugees and to grant them the status of permanent residents of the State of J&K and if it is not possible to grant State Subject status to them, a survey of such families to be conducted based on which they be given identification papers and access, as any State Subject of J&K would have, for Bachan Lal Kalgotra v. State of J&K, (1987) 2 SCC 223 at 227 Vide D.O. No. 1888/ PS/ MOS (15)/94 dated 16 June 1994. Vide D.O. No. Rehab/48/88 dated 18 July 1995 issued by the then Chief Secretary, Government of J&K. Vide office memorandum dated 4 May 2000. By his letter D.O. No. 15030/18/2001 dated 31 August 2001. Border and People – An Interface, the purposes of higher education, State Government services and to various other social welfare and poverty alleviation schemes. In the year 2005 again, the Ministry of Home Affairs required the State Government to grant the permanent resident status to West Pakistan refugees without any further delay by legislating under Section 8 of the J&K Constitution considering that they had been resident in the State for the last 56 years. But to no avail. The Response of the J&K Government In spite of the efforts made by the Government of India from time to time, the Government of J&K refused to grant the status of permanent residents of J&K to these West Pakistan refugees on the ground that these refugees cannot be treated as permanent residents of State of J&K under Section 6 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution read with the provisions of State Notification No. L/84 dated 20 April 1927 and the State Notification No. 13/L dated 27 June 1932.

Wadhwa Committee Report

The Wadhwa Committee, 2007 A small scintilla of hope was felt in the refugees when on 11 May 2006, Mr. Azad, the then Chief Minister, convened an All Parties Meeting at Srinagar to discuss the problems of the refugees of 1947, 1965 and 1971 from POK and West Pakistan to reach a consensus on political issues concerning the refugees. Subsequently, the Chief Minister constituted a committee under the chairmanship of the Financial Commissioner (Revenue) G. D. Wadhwa to look into the demands and problems of the displaced persons of 1947, 1965 and 1971 (POK and West Pakistan refugees) and furnish its recommendations.

The Committee was assigned the job to enlist the families of such displaced persons, identify their problems, gauge the adequacy of the measures taken by the government to address their problems and to suggest the measures for solving their problems. The Wadhwa Committee submitted the complete committee report carrying recommendations for the refugees from the POK and West Pakistan to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on 30 November 2007. In the first part of the report, the Committee dealt with the details of the families of the refugees and the benefits provided to them. Regarding West Pakistan refugees, first, it was identified that during the partition of 1947, a total of 56 Vide D.O. No. 15030/21/2000-K.V dated 8 January 2005. 57 The Wadhwa Committee was constituted vide Government Order No. Rev/ Rehab/151 dated 9 May 2007 5,764 families consisting of 47,215 souls migrated from West Pakistan and settled in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts of Jammu division. Regarding benefits, the Committee identified that no land was allotted to them. However, many of these refugees occupied government lands/EP lands. These lands were allotted to be retained by them (up to 12 acres of khushki and 8 acres of aabi land) subject to certain conditions. As a result, 46,466 kanals of State/EP land stands retained by these refugees under Cabinet Order No. 578-C of 1954. Second, the Committee pointed out that the demand of the West Pakistan refugees that they should be given civil and political rights is under the consideration of the government. In the second part of the report, the Committee dealt with the demands of the refugees and suggested recommendations. The first and foremost demand of the West Pakistan refugees was the conferral of citizenship rights to them and other allied demands (connected with citizenship). The Committee recommended that the West Pakistan refugees are very much the citizens of India and there is no separate citizenship of the State. Regarding demand of grant and extension of Permanent Resident Certificate benefits to them in the State, the Committee pointed that the demand is a political one and requires amendment of the State Constitution for which the government can take a decision.

 Political Incongruity 

APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq protesting against domicile certificate to WPR's/Photo: Zahir Farooq
APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq protesting against domicile certificate to WPR’s/Photo: Zahir Farooq

On 12 May 2007, the Wadhwa Committee report was placed in a meeting of all recognised political parties of the State held under the Chairmanship of the then Chief Minister, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad. However, divided opinions of different political parties emerged during the meeting. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), National Panthers Party and Jammu Mukti Morcha supported the grant of permanent resident status and all the rights available to the permanent residents of the State. BSP said that they should be rehabilitated like other refugees of 1947 with a special package for jobs to bring them at par with other people of J&K State. The Congress regarded the problem of refugees as human problem, supported the grant of permanent resident status to them but subjected the decision to the agreement of all political parties representing all regions of the State. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), though evincing a sympathetic attitude towards them, said that it was impossible for the party to endorse anything at present.  Senior party leader Abdul Aziz Zargar representing his party said that since at this time stakes are so high and the hopes of the people from all the regions are pinned on the peace process, other issues like this one can wait for their turn. The PDP accordingly proposed that the issue of granting permanent resident rights to the West Pakistan refugees of 1947 be considered with a solution to the larger problem reached between the concerned parties including India, Pakistan and the people of J&K. The National Conference (NC) refused even to consider the issue and pitted it against the Resettlement Act, 1982. It said that a section of the people of the Jammu division raised unnecessary hue and cry with the result that the said Act was subjected to Presidential Reference which is still pending the decision of the Supreme Court. If those people covered under the Act are not allowed to return in accordance with the law permitted by the Constitution, how can the permanent resident status be granted to those who do not belong to this State and have migrated from West Pakistan?

The CPI (M) also strongly opposed the grant of permanent resident status to the West Pakistan refugees. According to it, the government should address the concerns and interests of all sections of the society. A large number of the people, particularly of the valley, are already feeling alienated and deprived. These sections of society feel that the demand of permanent resident status to West Pakistan refugees raised by a marginal section ‘belonging to a particular region’ is made only to create hurdles in the peace process and is a ploy to change the demography of the State. When peace process was underway, such issues could impede the process.

Thus, no consensus could be arrived at among the political parties on the issue of granting permanent resident status to the West Pakistan refugees of 1947 as the majority of participants were of the opinion that this being a constitutional issue needed further deliberations and a final view could not be taken in isolation at this stage.

However, all political parties supported the providing of basic civic facilities and other social- and development-related amenities to these refugees that is possible without amending any existing law or the Constitution of the State.

Meanwhile, same year (2007) another Committee was constituted to resolve the issue of all types of refugees including the West Pakistan Refugees. The Committee was constituted vide Government Order No. 1372-LD 11 June 2007. The issue of permanent resident status to the West Pakistan refugees was not taken up at all in the Committee which, however, made a brief reference to domicile certificate while recommending that the State Revenue Department shall examine and ascertain from the Government of India whether the certificate of being domiciled in the State of J&K is required for appointment in the Central Government services. Panthers Party leader and legislator, Balwant Singh Mankotia, moved a Bill on 8 February 2007 pleading for Permanent Resident Certificates to these refugees. No progress was made on the bill, however. In the year 2009, a meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Raman Bhalla, Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, wherein the facilitation of issuance of domicile certificates was assured to them. The refugees from West Pakistan are thus being made to reconcile with Domicile Certificates instead of the Permanent Resident Certificates.

Seema Nargotra contributed to this report from her research work on West Pakistan Refugees. She is Senior Assistant Professor and teaches law at Jammu University.  

The story appeared in print edition of 4-10 January 2017.

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