STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: Thousands of West Pakistani Refugees (WPR), living in the State since partition have once again expressed hope of getting citizenship rights if Article 35A was scrapped by the Supreme court.
The Article empowers the State Legislature to define “Permanent residents” of the state, their special rights and privileges. It was added to the Constitution through a presidential order of 1954 with the concurrence of the State Government. At the same time, prominent leaders West Pak Refugees are worried with the aggressive posturing of the mainstream Kashmiri leadership including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti against scrapping Article 35A.
Supporting its abrogation, Labha Ram Gandhi, President of West Pak Refugees Front claimed, “We have been deprived of citizenship rights and since 1947 we have been struggling to become residents of the State.”
He said Article 35A is the biggest stumbling block and if Apex court would take a call on the contentious issue there is a possibility that they cannot be denied citizenship rights. Along with him, several other leaders expressed their faith in the Indian democracy and hoped time has come when the matter should be debated thoroughly to ascertain whether Article 35A has turned out to be boon or bane for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to rough estimates, over 20,000 families of West Pak Refugees, consisting 2 lakh souls, are living in different areas of Jammu and three generations have been deprived of citizenship rights.
Their children cannot be absorbed in State Government jobs and even to get into central government services. These refugees require domicile certificate which is opposed by the Kashmiri leadership and the Valley based political parties including separatists.
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