Justice Delayed and Denied to Refugees

No government in past or in present ever attempted to address non-Muslim, neighbouring countries to India, citizenship right issue seriously. Even judicial relief has also not been provided instead put on delayed mode for unknown reasons.

However, on Dec 10 the Meghalaya High Court in its exemplary judgment on refugees status in India said that Indian government should grant citizenship to all Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians, Khasis, Jaintias, Garos who have migrated to the country – in effect endorsing the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2016. Justice S R Sen in his judgement observed that at the time of Partition, “Pakistan declared themselves as an Islamic country and India since was divided on the basis of religion should have also been declared as a Hindu country but it remained as a secular country.” He went on to add, “The question is how a Hindu can belong elsewhere physically, psychologically and spiritually. His heart and home is India his native land India.” It remains to be seen whether his judgement will be implemented.

The Meghalaya High Court judgement can be taken as a leading edge for India’s sensitive state Jammu and Kashmir where the West Pakistan refugees 25,460 families and the total number is approximately 1.5 lakh
have been leading a wrenched life in Jammu since 1947. They had migrated to Jammu to save their life but even after 71 years of independence and forced migration, these refugees have not given residential ship of the state. They cannot get admission in professional colleges of the state nor can they apply for government jobs. They can vote for the parliament but not for state assembly. Many Hindus and Sikhs mainly from Sialkot district of undivided Punjab migrated to India residing in J&K, were categorised as West Pak refugees. The reported recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to grant basic rights to the West Pakistani Refugees (WPR) which stand denied to them.

The irony of the situation is that, no Government has addressed their problem. On the contrary, the Jammu & Kashmir Government came with a legislation called The Jammu & Kashmir Grant of Permit for Resettlement in (or Permanent Return to) the State Act, 1982 to “provide for regulation of procedure for grant of permit for resettlement in or permanent return to the State of the permanent residents” and their descendants, wife or widow who had migrated to Pakistan between March 1, 1947 and May 14, 1954 .The bill known as Bill No 9 became law on October 6, 1982 – enabling the residents who had migrated to Pakistan between 1st March 1947 to 15th May 1954 to return and claim their property and resettle in the State. The then Chief Minister Late Sheikh Mohd Abdullah with definite political design wanted to invite Muslims with the offer of the citizenship right, who had left Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of partition and settled in different parts of Pakistan. Meanwhile, Bhim Singh, then Congress MLA filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India against Bill No.9 in 1982. Since then the case has been pending in the Supreme Court of India for final disposal.

After 38 years a bill of 1982 was listed twice for hearing by Supreme Court of India before Chief Justice of India bench with two other justices S K Koul and K K Joseph on Dec 13, 2018 and Jan 10, 2019 . However, after a brief argument by Prof Bhim Singh, senior advocate and a petitioner himself , the Chief Justice of India decided to announce the next date for hearing by himself .

Same is the fate of around 31619 families of PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) hanging in fire who were subjected to genocide by the tribes backed by Pakistan army in 1947 are technically not to be categorised as ‘refugees’. According to Rajiv Chuni, Chairman of SOS International the POK Refugees’ Association “The 13 lakh PoK DPs in populace are given shelter at various places in India but not kept in segment. PoK DPs are facing the apathy of Government because they don’t have political reservation.”

Rajiv Chuni, has accused the successive state government of turning a ‘blind eye’ toward their demands. These Refugees do not have any constituency of their own, despite the fact that 24 assembly seats are kept reserved for the POK area in J&K assembly of 111 strength. They have been demanding to fill at least 8 seats of 24 prescribed in J&K State Constitution. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, on refugees and displaced persons of J&K, was tabled on the floor of the House on December 22, 2014. It had recommended defreezing of eight ‘reserved’ seats. “The committee considered that the Centre should take up the matter with the state government keeping in view the problems being faced by displaced persons. The ministry may impress upon the state government to amend the state constitution, if necessary, at the earliest,” the panel suggested in its report. Unfortunately, BJP-PDP coalition failed to address the burning issue. Besides they have been demanding Rupees 25 lakh compensation for each refugee family and other facilities under national and international laws for refugees. In each parliamentary election political parties make a promise for granting them State -Subject ship but that never happened. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too made a similar promise in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The delegation of the West Pak refugees was arranged a meeting with the Prime minister in which PM had assured a special recruitment drive for the refugees, besides a provision to ensure their regular recruitment in Central forces in future. But, the Joint Parliamentary committee recommendation of granting citizenship and compensation to the west Pakistani refugees. However, the MHA has approved a scheme of Rs 5.5 lakh financial assistance to nearly 1.5 lakh West Pakistani Refugees settled in J&K.

The International law on Human Rights has relevance on the subject. Article 17(1) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has a right to own property alone as well as in association with others. Article 21(1) postulates that everyone has a right to take part in the Government of the country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Article 23(1) lays down that everyone has right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against the unemployment. Resolutions 3 of the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have acknowledged the importance of respect for the human dignity of protection of all migrants.

In PoK, under their constitution Act-74, the 49 member house, 12 members are elected from the refugees’ constituencies from Indian -Jammu and Kashmir area settled in different parts of Pakistan. The house has five other reserved seats for women, plus one each for a religious scholar, professional (commonly known as a technocrat) and for Kashmiris settled abroad.


More by :  R C Ganjoo

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