Jammu: West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) inhabiting Sure Chak, a village in Jammu, are unfazed by the furore created by parliamentary panel’s recommendation that these refugees shall be granted voting rights in assembly polls and permanent state subject status.
Ramesh Kumar, 35, whose father had migrated from Sialkot in Pakistan, offers an insight into why the residents are not bothered about the angry voices emanating from the Valley.
“I voted in both parliamentary and assembly polls. I have been voting since I attained voting age. I have got the voter I-card, ration card, driving licence but no state subject,” Kumar told Kashmir Reader.
Kumar also has a job in the state government for the past 10 years (name of the department withheld on request). Officially, no WPR can be employed by the state government because only permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir are eligible for such jobs.
The entrance to Kumar’s one-storey concrete house is emblazoned with a poster of BJP’s legislator from Raipur Domana, Bali Baghat. Kumar has been busy making preparations for a party he has organised at his home to celebrate Baghat’s victory in assembly polls.
During assembly polls, Kumar said he frantically campaigned for BJP, which has consistently been making the settlement of WPRs as a poll issue. He said his new car “underwent through lot of wear and tear” during campaign tours.
Like Kumar, every Sure Chak villager of voting age said they voted for the saffron party in the assembly election.
The land in the village, about 12km from Jammu, is owned by a local numberdar and none of the WPRs have property rights. Kumar’s electricity connection and ration card are registered in his mother’s name.
Earlier, the army and paramilitary forces were the preferred destinations for the WPRs in Sure Chak. But amended recruitment rules made it mandatory to supplement job applications with permanent resident certificate. Since WPRs are not permanent residents of the state, they had to suffer.
On the recommendation of the parliamentary panel, Home ministry recently removed the permanent resident bar for WPRs for recruitment in armed forces and central paramilitary forces.
The residents have a firm belief that with BJP about to form a coalition government with the PDP, they will conquer the last hurdle too: the permanent resident certificate that makes them eligible for buying property in the state and applying for state jobs as well.
Two-years ago, Rakesh Kumar, a final year student at Government Commerce College, Jammu, was dejected when he was asked by the army to attach the state subject certificate with his job application.
“I lacked state subject certificate only. I had voter I-card, degree certificate and a valid ration card,” said Rakesh. He said he was also denied admission to a three-year engineering diploma at a government polytechnic college because he didn’t have a permanent resident certificate.
Poli Devi, who had come from Pakistan as a refugee, said she believes her time is over and it is only for the future of her children that she keeps attending the public meetings where the WPRs demand permanent residents’ rights.
“My husband is a labourer, and every time I have to spend out of my own pocket to attend a rally or a protest. Nothing happened. I voted in the polls and let us see what happens,” Devi said.