Displaced Pakistani refugees now getting J&K domicile status, Rs 5 lakh financial assistance

Close to eight months since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, the communities that faced discrimination in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for decades have finally started getting domicile status and financial assistance from the government.

The West Pakistan refugees, who were denied permanent resident status in J&K since 1947, are now being issued domicile certificates by the Union Territory administration.

The refugees are not only getting the domicile certificates, they are also being given financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh per family.

Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh on Thursday informed that the displaced persons/refugees in Jammu and Kashmir have started getting an amount of Rs 5 lakh financial assistance.

In a tweet, Jitendra Singh said, “Displaced persons/refugees in Jammu and Kashmir, have started getting an amount of Rs 5 lakh financial assistance, as promised by the @narendramodi Govt. First list of recipients is out.” He also shared the first list of beneficiaries from Kathua district.

West Pakistan refugees comprise members of Hindu and Sikh communities who had migrated from erstwhile West Pakistan (now Pakistan) after partition in 1947. While refugees who settled in other parts of the country in 1947 got the Constitutional rights, the West Pakistan refugees who came to J&K were denied civil and political rights due to the discriminatory state subject laws in J&K.

The refugees couldn’t apply for J&K government jobs and were also barred from voting in Assembly elections. They could only apply for Central government services and vote in the Lok Sabha elections.

The discrimination continued for decades despite the refugees’ repeated pleas before the successive governments both at the state and the Centre.

The injustice to the refugees finally ended last year when Article 370 and 35A were revoked. The West Pakistan refugees can now become the domiciles of J&K as per the new domicile law. The government had also promised them financial assistance which is now being fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the West Pakistan refugees have welcomed the government’s decision to disburse cash assistance to them.

Om Prakash said, “We suffered for a very long time. Survival was a battle for us. We didn’t even get admission in colleges. We would like to thank PM Narendra Modi and Union Minister Jitendra Singh for taking note of our plight and delivering justice to us.”

“I was delighted to know that I would now get cash assistance of Rs 5 lakh from the government,” he said.

Another refugee said, “We were suffering due to Article 370 and 35A. Now, we have got some relief. We can apply for government jobs now. The Modi government has done a lot for us. We were happy to see our names in the list of those refugees who would get cash assistance.”

Labha Ram Gandhi, West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee 1947 president, said, “We have faced discrimination for decades. It’s because of the Modi government that we can now become domiciles of J&K and apply for government jobs. The Modi government has given us dignity. We thank PM Modi for giving justice to us.”

Meanwhile, the BJP and the Congress have traded charges for ignoring the plight of the refugees.

“West Pakistan refugees were deprived of their rights for so many decades by National Conference, Congress and Peoples Democratic Party. It’s the Modi government which has given them justice by abrogating Article 370 and 35A. West Pakistan refugees will now become domiciles of J&K. Our government is also giving them Rs 5 lakh assistance. Majority of the West Pakistan refugees belong to the Dalit community. Congress and NC victimised Dalits in J&K. Our government has now given them justice and dignity,” Ravinder Raina, J&K BJP chief, said.

Congress, on the other hand, has said BJP had earlier promised Rs 30 lakh to the refugees, and not Rs 5 lakh.

“The BJP had promised to give Rs 30 lakh financial assistance to refugees. But, it’s only providing them Rs 5 lakh now. This is nothing but betrayal. Why is BJP not giving them Rs 30 lakh? Congress was always in the favour of giving them Rs 30 lakh. We were also in support of giving them domicile rights,” Ravinder Sharma, J&K Congress spokesperson, said.