PoJK refugees awaiting political representation

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Er J S Sudan
At the time of partition of India in 1947 and accession of the then Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan attacked the state of J&K under the guise of tribal raid on 22nd October, 1947. As a consequence, the minority Hindus and Sikhs living in Muzaffarabad, Poonch and Mirpur areas suffered genocide and were forced to leave their homes and hearth to take shelter in this part of the State. More than 41,119 families (31,619 registered, 9500 unregistered) as per reply placed on table of Lok Sabha, were forced to leave their homes and hearth, sacrificing more than 40,000 kith and kins in the genocide. In addition to it, due to consequences of Indo-Pak wars of 1965 & 1971, about 10,065 more families were displaced from Chamb- Jourian areas, thereby taking the total number of DPs families to 51,174. These DPs are now living in the 3rd & 4th generation and their populace is estimated to be more than 14 lakh souls. These DPs today are still living in more than 130 refugee ‘Bastis’/ camps/habitations , then put up in 1947, 1965 and 1971 , spread along IB and LoC within and outside J&K and have been facing utter neglect, discrimination, and deprivation for last 73 years. No Government, worth its name, has ever worked sincerely for welfare, Relief and Rehabilitation of these Displaced Families till date.
One of the main issues of Displaced Persons had been the political discrimination and deprivation of political rights under the Constitution of India to elect their own representatives for law making bodies. Since the formation of the Legislative Assembly in the State, 25 Assembly seats had been kept reserved for PoJK areas. The DPs of 1947 comprising of about 1/3rd of population of PoJK, now living in Jammu province after displacement, have been demanding de-freezing 8-10 Assembly seats in proportion to population displaced from PoJK . DPs were sheltered in more than 130 refugee ‘Bastis’ / habitations in Jammu province all along International Border and LoC in a scattered manner, spread over more than 25 Assembly segments in Jammu province that they cannot put their own candidate and get him/her elected. Being Class-1 State Subjects, though they have been voting till date in all the assembly as well general elections, not for their own representatives but for candidates of areas, which had given them refuge in 1947. Now the Government of India has formed a Delimitation Commission to reallocate the Assembly segments from 83 to 90 for the UT of J&K, which will again adversely affect their right to elect their own representative. Further, way back in 1988, the then successive Government had already de-frozen 1 assembly seat and created a new Mendhar segment, thus reducing 25 seats reserved for PoJK areas to 24. If this could be done for one seat of Mendar, what comes in the way to de-freeze 1/3rd i.e., 8-10 seats out of 24 seats already kept vacant for DPs of 1947 only who are presently living in UT of JK. The basic three conditions for consideration of Assembly segment are the population / voters area having contiguity and connectivity. But since there is no connectivity and area being not under our control, these later two conditions have to be waived off and only voting population shall have to be considered to provide their constitutional right to elect their own representative to legislative body. Way back in 1979, the Deptt of Legal Affairs, Govt of India, had submitted before the Rajya Sabha Commitee on petitions while deliberating on a petition by Sharnarthi Action Committee , “the part of Jammu and Kashmir at present under the occupation of Pakistan is, in law, a part of the territory of India. Pakistan had raised the issue in various international forums and thus nothing should be done which could jeopardize the stand which they might take, or the bargaining position vis-a-vis Pakistan.” This stand was reiterated vide Parliamentary Resolution of Feb. 1994 declaring PoJK area as an integral part on India. Thus, GOI had deliberately kept our settlement pending for its own interests at cost of DPs from PoJK. Since the present Government has been working constantly to eradicate the regional disparities among Jammu and Kashmir regions and acknowledge equality in repesentation to all, the Movement for Justice for Refugees of 1947 from POJK approached the newly constituted Delimitation Commission for UT of JK to provide opportunity to displaced persons from PoJK for representation in Legislative assembly of UT of JK, but the Delimitation Commission for UT of JK, New Delhi vide its letter No.283/J&K/2020/(DEL)/22 dated 12.01.2021, intimated that our request cannot be acceded in view of Section 14(4) of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, which reads as, “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section(3), untill area of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir under the occupation of Pakistan ceases to be so occupied and the people residing in that area elect their representative-………” Thus, one interpretation while reading the line ‘the people residing in that area elect their representative………’ clearly means to refer to DPs of 1947 also as original residents of area and are part of voters to elect their candidates for these segments. Now, when for the last three decades the valley migrants though migrated to various part of the nation out of their constituencies can still vote and are casting their votes for their constituency candidates why can’t DPs be allowed to vote for their own candidates for their assembly segments while temporarily living in various parts of India outside PoJK areas.
Now the question arises that the constituencies for areas occupied by Pakistan cannot be demarked as area not under our control. But the fact is that its voters who cast their votes and not area or land. Hence, there is no justification in keeping DPs deprived to vote and elect their own representatives for seats already kept frozen for their areas of original residence. On the other hand Government of Pakistan, to strengthen their claim on J&K, had managed to keep 12 assembly seats (6 for Jammu and 6 for Valley) in 49-member assembly of Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. So, in a way giving political representation to migrants from Jammu & Kashmir, why should Government of India not do it for DPs of 1947 from PoJK and to strengthen its claim on PoJK? It is further clear that on the basis of population and voters strength, DPs do qualify for at least one seat in Lok Sabha and one seat for Rajya Sabha. Due to major reasons given above having no political voice of the DPs in any of the law-making bodies, the DPs have been deprived of all other claims of Relief & Rehabilitation despite clear recommendations by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Government of India vide report no.183 tabled in both houses of Parliament on 22nd Dec 2014. Hence, for social, political and overall empowerment of this perpetually ignored class of DPs of 1947 , following measures on this account are suggested to be taken : –
1) De-freeze at least 8-10 assembly seats out of 24 seats kept reserved for PoJK in favour of DPs of 1947 living in Union of India as also recommended by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Government of India vide report no. 183 (para-3.2.2.3).
2) Alternatively, if for some reason Government of India, presently is unable to do so, 5-6 seats in existing segments be reserved for DPs as is done for the other weaker classes or categories of people.
3) Finally, if neither of the options as stated above is possible at present then at least provision be made to nominate at least 8 – 10 members, equivalent in proportion to number of DP voters, for the UT Assembly.
4) Provisions for one seat each in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha be made by required amendments.
It is much necessary for empowerment of class of DPs suffering for last 73 years and awaiting justice, and would go a long way to further interests of the Jammu region of UT as well as national interests.
(The author is Convener, Movement for Justice for Refugees of 1947 from PoJK)