Tribune News Service
Jammu, June 14
Amid conflicting reports about the move on Article 35-A, the government is mulling implementing some recommendations of the Wadhawa Committee to mitigate the plight of West Pakistani Refugees (WPRs) — struggling since 1947 to get basic human rights.
As the BJP had reiterated its promise to solve problems of WPRs during the recently held Lok Sabha elections, implementing recommendations of the Wadhwa panel would resolve problems of these refugees once and for all, without waiting for the court’s verdict on Article 35-A.
Sources said during a meeting with representatives of the Union Government, leaders of WPRs had suggested implementing some suggestions of the panel. “Government’s representatives have assured implementation of some recommendations of the panel to solve our problems to some extent,” a refugee leader said.
Headed by the then Financial Commissioner (Revenue) GD Wadhwa, a committee was constituted in May 2006 to look into the problems of 1947, 1965 and 1971 refugees from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and West Pakistan. The panel had submitted its report to the government on November 29, 2008, but the document is gathering dust for the last nearly 11 years.
Although the panel’s report was never made public, it is believed that the committee had recommended citizenship rights for WPRs, a majority of them Dalits and OBCs, besides giving them voting rights for assembly, urban local bodies and panchayat elections.
Successive governments in the state, including previous coalition regime in which BJP was equal partner, have repeatedly stated that recommendations were under considerations.
Notably, for the last 11 years, successive state governments are taking guidance from the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs on the report of the Wadhwa panel.
A joint parliamentary committee, including 10 members from the Rajya Sabha, had also recommended implementation of the reports of the panel in 2015.
Who are West Pakistani Refugees
- Victims of the 1947 holocaust, these displaced people from Pakistani Punjab — majority of them Dalits and OBCs — are being treated as “unwanted and wronged” by the successive governments and no effort has been made to solve their issues
- As many as 19,960 refugee families are living in 137 hamlets, mostly along the Pakistan border, in plains of Jammu province. Many of the refugees have been living in sub-human conditions in mud house without water and power supplies
- Entitlement for Permanent Resident Certificate, like other citizens of J&K
- Rehabilitation of all refugees living in state since 1947
- Entitlement for benefits of welfare schemes of the Union Government
- Compensation to all who had left behind their property in Pakistan after partition
- Voting rights in assembly, civic bodies and panchayat elections
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