WPR Row- No Question of Sending Refugees Back: BJP

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Srinagar: With opposition mainstream parties and separatists opposing granting of domicile certificates to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs), the ruling BJP on Monday toughened its stand on the issue saying there is no question of sending the refugees outside the State and  the party would like to see they are adequately settled in the State.

“State government is only issuing Identity/Domicile certificates to the refugees and nobody should have any problem over it,”Delhi-based newspaper, Indian Express, reported on Monday.

“Our opinion is that WPRs are staying in J&K for 70 years,” the paper quoted State BJP Chief spokesman, Sunil Sethi, as having said.  “Whatever is possible within the confine of J&K constituency, we should give it to them and nobody should have any problem on it.”

After clearance from Union Home Ministry, the PDP-BJP coalition government in the State has started issuing Nativity/Identity or domicile certificates to the WP refugees since August this year.

At least 5800 families from Sialkote, Pakistan had settled in border districts in J&K after partition of Indian sub-continent in 1947.  At present 19960 WPR families, according to West Pakistani Refugees Action Committee, are living in different areas of Jammu.

The WPRs can cast votes in parliamentary elections but cannot vote in J&K Assembly elections. Besides, they are not entitled for jobs in the State government departments.

Sethi said BJP would in the longer run want WPRs to be adequately settled in J&K.

On demands by separatists and opposition National Conference that the WPRs be settled outside the State, he said there is no question of sending the WPRs outside the State.

“We won’t allow them to be sent outside J&K. They have been living here and are part and parcel of the State”.

Sethi said the government is giving them domicile certificate, which states that they are residing in J&K.

“Domicile certificate is not an answer to their problem. Their problem should be resolved in a pragmatic manner. More needs to be done for them,” he said.

Sethi, however, said by giving them domicile certificates, some of their problems could be lessened. “It would make it be easier for them to get jobs in central government or central forces”.

“We will surely try to have employment package for them from central government,” added the BJP chief spokesman.

The separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, who are spearheading the over five month long agitation in the Valley after killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, have alleged that the government is issuing domicile certificates to the WPRs to change the demographic profile of Muslim-majority J&K.

Terming the issue as “life and death for Kashmiris”, separatist leaders said, “India should settle the WPRs in any other state because settling them in a ‘disputed land’ of J&K will jeopardize and erode its historical and political contours, which is not acceptable to us”.

The opposition mainstream parties National Conference (NC) and Congress have also opposed the move.

NC has alleged that PDP-BJP government was resorting to all possible means to dilute Article 370 and circumvent the State Subject law while Congress has maintained that PDP government was running on the dictations of RSS.

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