Apart from the issue of Article 370 and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), the opponents of BJP in Jammu and Kashmir have got a new tool to hinder its possible march to the state assembly elections next month. The new issue is that the Central government has not approved Rs 9036 crore package forwarded by the state government. Keeping in view the ensuing assembly elections, the state government approved package of Rs 9036 crore for one time settlement of Pakistan-occupied Jammu-Kashmir (POJK) refugees
Sources reveal, Congress- National Conference (NC) coalition changed their stance to save their vote bank after Modi led BJP Government took measures to redress the grievances of all communities including refugees of 1947, 1965 & 1971. And also because the package approved by the NC-Congress coalition did not have place for the refugees of the West Pakistan.
Going by the reasoning and timing of the central government, it is clear that they did so keeping ‘only’ the well-being of refugees including West Pakistan refugees in mind and did not do so for vote bank politics.
It was on October 16, 2014 that the J&K State Government, ‘after 67 years’ and many hiccups, had approved this package and forwarded it to the Centre for sanction. Fact of the matter is that this was hastily approved by NC-Congress coalition Government at the end of its tenure, sensing the need of the refugee’s vote, due to BJP’s effect and it was not surely because of the ruling setup’s concerns for refugees. The coalition partners were in the power in the state and at the centre for long, despite this, the demand of generations of refugees were not considered as zealously as this time, and the reason behind is not difficult to guess.
How come the Congress, NC and PDP (who have been the rulers till date) did not see the plight of poor refugees before the emergence of BJP in the state? In fact, these parties were playing criminally with the delimitation rules by giving Kashmir Valley enough seats (46 seats) to over-number all Jammu (37seats) and Ladakh (4 seats) and thereby conspiring to tender most of the non Sunni votes ineffective including the votes of the Hindu refugees of West Pakistan, PoJK, 1965, 197. None of the parties, including Congress, never spared a thought to these votes and thereby the plights of these Hindu refugees who are living in the Jammu region of the state.
Non inclusion of the West Pakistan refugees in the package framed by Congress and NC is pathetic and is based upon the mean mentality of vote bank politics. Just because they do not vote in the assembly election, their plights do not disappear. In fact they are the worst victims of politics. They are not considered state subjects by the government and therefore are denied basic rights essential for survival- the right to education, the right to have property and the right to seek jobs in the government sector-they have been excluded from all the benefits. Infact, most of the West Pakistan refugees are dependent on manual labour for a living even after serving the state for more than 67 years. If BJP would have thought like Congress, it would have preferred to stay mum on the issue, but instead, it has done what was right. That the central government returned the package directing the state government to include the West Pakistan refugees in the package needs to be appreciated. This step indeed shows the seriousness of the government on the subject and not a manoeuvred tactic to play politics over the package.
Moreover, since the model code of conduct is in place, the government still could have not passed it anyway. Considering the plight of POJK refugees, the government of India has taken the right step of making the package more inclusive.
Arvind (The writer is researcher at J&K Study Centre)