27 December, New Delhi
Taking a serious note of the sub-human living conditions of West Pakistani Refugees (WPRs) in Jammu & Kashmir, a Parliamentary panel has asked the Centre to prevail upon the state to grant them the right to vote in the Assembly elections. “The Committee strongly recommends that the Central government must impress upon the state government to consider, as a one time measure, the demand of West Pakistani Refugees to grant them the status of permanent
residents of the state sympathetically, so that they can live as state subject in a dignified way, with all legal rights, including the Right to Vote in the State Legislative Assembly,” the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs said in its report on the problems being faced by refugees and displaced persons in J&K.
The Committee expressed serious concern that West Pakistani Refugees, who were very much citizens of India and eligible for voting in Parliamentary elections, do not possess right to vote in the State Legislature Assembly elections on the pretext that they were not permanent residents of the state, in terms of the J&K constitution.
“The committee feels that through they are living there for more than 60 years, they are not leading the life of free citizens, despite having voting rights for Parliament. This right has not earned them any special benefits,” the panel noted.
The Committee in its reports said it was aware that WPRs are not considered permanent residents of the state of J&K in terms of the Constitution on the ground that WPRs did not have ownership of land (Sahib-e Jaidad) of J&K in 1944, a pre-condition to acquire the permanent residency right.
It noted that WPRs have been living there since 1947 and running from pillar to post in search of permanent source of livelihood. The Committee pointed out that land owning provision could not apply on the WPRs as they had arrived there even before the enforcement of Article 370.