For seven decades they lived as children of lesser gods and citizens of nowhere. After facing the brunt of partition in terms of dislocation from their homes and hearths in West Pakistan, generations of refugees lived and died in a state of dejection and frustration. Now that the discriminatory Articles 370 and 35A are gone, the West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) are feeling a sense of empowerment and belonging to the land they inhabited for decades as aliens.
Sudagar Mal, a West Pakistani refugee, hailed the bold and courageous step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for giving citizenship to the West Pakistani refugees by scrapping the Articles 370 and 35A from Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the refugees were deprived of voting rights and avenues in the higher educational institutions of J&K due to denial of Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs). He said that most of the refugees are poor and that’s why they were not able to provide good education to their wards. He also assailed the successive governments for giving step-motherly treatment to them.
Kaushalya Devi, a senior citizen, welcomed the repealing of Articles 370 and 35A from the Constitution. She rued that the West Pakistani Refugees suffered a lot due to these Articles. “The children of West Pakistani refugees had no option but to go to the metro cities for employment but after J&K becoming a Union Territory, we are happy and contented about the future of our youth,” she said and expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for revoking these Articles and assured whole-hearted support to the BJP in its stride to ensure welfare of people of this country. “Now after the scrapping of these Articles of Constitution, we are hopeful for happy and prosperous future of our children,” she added.
Sneha Kumari, a student, said that children of West Pakistani refugees living in J&K mostly studied upto class 10th or 12th as they knew that they could not get government job in Jammu and Kashmir. She said that there were very less opportunities for the West Pakistani refugees due to Article 370. She said that provision of Article 370 has deprived the entire community of their basic rights. “The West Pakistani refugees were debarred from buying properties and pursuing higher education in Jammu and Kashmir”, she said adding that the country got freedom in 1947 but her community has become free from the clutches of Article 370 only on August 5, 2019 by the revolutionary and farsighted decision taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. She asserted, “Now I am also eligible to cast my vote for the first in J&K to elect the candidate of my own choice.”
Sunny Kumar, a youth said, “Being victim of Articles 370 and 35A, I was not able to get the benefit of schemes launched by the state and central governments for the welfare of youth in Jammu and Kashmir. I was deprived of various benefits like higher education as State Subject certificate was a pre-requisite for availing the bounties offered by the aforesaid schemes. He expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for abrogating these anti-refugee Articles from the Constitution which arbitrarily denied citizenship rights to the community. He hoped that with scrapping of these Articles, the youth of the community shall now become eligible for employment in government departments.
Ram Lal, a senior citizen, said he had never thought that Article 370 can be scrapped by any of the governments. He said that repealing of Articles 370 and 35A is being considered as a sign of hope and justice among the West Pakistani refugees residing in Jammu and Kashmir. He said Article 370 has grilled the entire community by depriving it from enjoying rights which are extended to other compatriots. “In Jammu and Kashmir, there was no future for West Pakistani refugees and the community lagged behind others”, he said, adding that for the past 70 years we are living like slaves due to lack of facilities. He expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving full rights to the community at par with other citizens of the India.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper