Prevent Further Polarisation

The government of India is likely to announce a package for the settlement of refugees living in Jammu. According to reports, the Home Ministry is in consultation with other ministries to give a final shape to the package. Further, the NDA government is said to have decided to prioritize the issue of refugees who have been seeking settlement for the past sixty years. Most probably the package will be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu on June 21. The BJP has always advocated the cause of Jammu and the refugees.

Nothing wrong with that, apparently, but the same elements have vehemently opposed J and K’s Re-settlement Act which could facilitate the return of the muhajireen (people who were forced to migrate from various parts of Jammu and the Valley of Kashmir following large scale killings). Further, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking to get the Act quashed.  It is still pending adjudication and has not come up for hearing for more than a year now. People have every reason to believe that the intended package will change the demography of the state in general and of the Jammu region in particular.

The BJP leadership has brazenly said that the issue is to be settled now because it has a majority in the Lok Sabha. Its leaders have justified the package stating that the refugees are from Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) which, they assert, is a part of the Jammu and Kashmir state.  The same argument must apply to the muhajireen. They are also citizens of the state and hail from roughly the same areas.  The BJP may win a few thousand voters in Jammu by giving the package and opposing the Re-Settlement Act but the already polarized state will become only more so.

The Coalition partners and the PDP need to take the issue up with the concerned. There is no need to oppose the intended package. But at the same time, they need to be told that the muhajireen too have a right to come back and settle at their native places. There cannot be two yardsticks for the same problem.  If the refugees have suffered, so have the muhajireen.