Unsettling Resettlement Act
By R.C. Ganjoo
With the reopening of the Srinagar-Muza-ffarabad road, the lid to the storm has opened. A 60-year-old woman, Farida Gani, who had come on a tourist permit through Karvan-e-Aman bus from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar on April 7, has staked claim to her ancestral property in Srinagar left in 1948. Before Evacuees Department of J&K state could act on her application, Prof. Bhim Singh, chairman of Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party, which is a partner in the coalition government in J&K state, filed a petition before the apex court. The petition sought prohibition for the J&K government to entertain any application from those in Pakistan or PoK who travel from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar on a tourist permit.
On May 13, a Division Bench of Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice R. Lahoti, Justice Santosh Hegde and Justice G. Mathur, directed the Union of India to file a counter affidavit in the case.
Meanwhile, the state government gave an undertaking before the Supreme Court that the state government shall not entertain any application for the restoration of the evacuees property or custodian general in view of the stay order issued by the Supreme Court two years ago on February 9, 2002. This stay order was passed by the Supreme Court on the petition filed by Bhim Singh, who had intervened when the Supreme Court sent back the Resettlement Bill without comments, on November 6, 2001.
The then Governor of J&K, B.K. Nehru had sought a legal opinion from Attorney General of India and also sent it back to the state assembly for its reconsideration. This particular Bill was pending in the Supreme Court for its legal opinion, sent by the then President of India, Giani Zail Singh on September 30, 1982.
At that time, Prof. Bhim Singh as Congress MLA opposed the Bill. But he was expelled from the Congress. The Bill was sent to the Select Committee, in which Mangat Ram Sharma, presently the Deputy Chief Minister of the state, was also a member. The Select Committee accepted the Bill and the Assembly passed it in 1982.
The writ petition filed had raised two main points stating that with the reunion of J&K, thousands of Pak-trained soldiers shall enter into India to sabotage national security, which could bring more than 200,000 Pakistanis including descendants of those who were born in Pakistan and many more trained under the Taliban. Secondly, persons who have deliberately and voluntarily migrated to Pakistan, settled there and taken Pakistani citizenship, and also served in the Pakistani civil or armed services or fought against India or committed other treasonable acts against the country, can at any time of their choice return to India and settle here with legal rights.
According to Prof. Bhim Singh, the property declared evacuee property under the provisions of Jammu & Kashmir State Evacuees Act, had been allotted to people who came to Jammu from PoK area in 1947. Such families are one lakh belonging to Hindu and Sikh religions. ?Taking away land and property from the allottees, who had left behind their property in PoK, would create fear psychosis and communal tension in the region,? warns Prof. Bhim Singh. In his fresh writ petition, Prof. Bhim Singh has said that persons coming on a permit from Pakistan or PoK, who were born there, cannot be a citizen of India and the Citizenship Act is a subject with Union of India and not with the state government. He says: ?If the state government issues a no-objection certificate to a Pakistani national or to a PoK resident, the person should first be declared a citizen of India.?
Here it is worth mentioning that the J&K Resettlement Bill was passed by the J&K Assembly on October 4, 1982, when Dr Farooq Abdullah was the Chief Minister of the state. However, the Bill was introduced in the state assembly in 1980, when Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was ruling the state. The Bill was introduced by a private member, who was none other than his own party member Abdul Rahim Rather. Presently, he holds the post of the leader of Opposition (National Conference) in J&K Assembly. At that time, Prof. Bhim Singh as Congress MLA opposed the Bill. But he was expelled from the Congress. The Bill was sent to the Select Committee, in which Mangat Ram Sharma, presently the Deputy Chief Minister of the state, was also a member. The Select Committee accepted the Bill and the assembly passed it in 1982.
Thoughtfully, Sheikh Moha-mmad Abdullah had visualised Kashmir'sfuture with definite political motive. Kashmiri leaders, though belonging to different parties, in changing political scenario, have been pushing forward his plan with modifications but with the same spirit. His political agenda carried greater autonomy on which Dr Farooq Abdullah has been harping?Resettlements Act, reopening of Muzaffarabad road and reopening of Mughal road. Wittingly or unwittingly, his plans are being executed, leaving strategists in Delhi unaware about its ramifications.