WPRs ‘will pick up arms if demands not met’

Moazum Mohammad

Jammu: West Pakistan Refugees have warned that they will pick up arms against the state if they are not granted permanent state subject status, and said the provision for their livelihood in the BJP-PDP coalition government’s agenda is not enough.
Lubha Ram Gandhi, a retired soldier and head of the organization whose aim is to pressurise state and central governments into granting WPRs state subject rights, said, “Our future generation would adopt the path of ‘karo ya maro (do or die)’”.
“Our youth will tread the wrong path when pushed to the edge because we are facing injustice. If we are not given settlement rights, our youth who are sitting idle will join militancy. We are fully prepared..the fight will be against the government and onus will lie on the government of India,” Gandhi told Kashmir Reader.
Permanent settlement of about 47,000 Hindu WPRs in the state was one of the major points of disagreement between PDP and BJP during two-month-long negotiations over government formation. While BJP wanted the government to declare them as subjects of J&K, PDP disagreed after resistance leaders and other Kashmiri organisations expressed fears of demographic changes.
The Agenda of Alliance, which will guide the coalition government for six-years, has proposed measures for sustenance and livelihood of the refugees. Early this year, a parliamentary panel had recommended the WPRs shall be granted the permanent resident status of the state and voting rights in Assembly elections apart from their recruitment in paramilitary forces.
Gandhi, whose family came as refugees from Sialkot to Jammu in 1947, said that his organization, West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee, was maintaining “wait and watch approach”.
“Before elections, BJP assured us our issue will be resolved on humanitarian basis. Now they have reached an understanding with PDP and let we see how long they take to settle our issues. We don’t want money or land as promised in CMP but citizenship rights,” he said.
“We are fully prepared to counter them (government) if they fool us. We will start an agitation like 2008 (Amarnath yatra land agitation),” he said.
Asked as to how an ex-serviceman and namesake of Mahatma Gandhi approves of violence, he said, “If patriotism doesn’t work, we will be forced to fight the government.”
“I have persuaded my youth not to resort to violence but they won’t wait for long,” Gandhi said.
During a rally on February 24, Gandhi had warned that WPRs will organise sit-ins outside the houses of BJP legislators if their demand is not considered.
Gandhi remains hopeful because, he said, the issue of WPRs played a big role in the saffron party’s win.