The state government is under a legal and moral obligation to contest the petition filed by Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh on Re-settlement Act in the Supreme Court. The pace with which the case is listed reflects the indifference of the government to the vital issue. Realising his mistake of expatriating dissidents since 1947, his inaction during the November 6 massacre of Muslims in Jammu and the large-scale migration that followed, Sher-e-Kashmir introduced the Bill (Re-settlement Bill) in the state legislature in 1980, which was later passed. This was Sher-e-Kashmir’s last wish.
The legislation came to be known as Re-settlement Act. Sensing the gravity of the legislation, the government of India referred it to the Supreme Court for opinion which returned it after twenty-years without any changes or comments. However, the communal forces expressed serious reservations and one among them approached the Supreme Court. The apex court stayed the implementation of the Re-settlement Act. The petition has not come up for hearing for the past nine years and the state government, which is duty bound to defend the legislation is watching like a mute spectator. When the Supreme Court returned the legislation in 2002, people holding evacuee property in Jammu came out on the streets. The government had to assure them a comfortable stay in the property, which they hold but does not belong to them. The legislation has far reaching political consequences. As per the provisions of the Delhi Agreement of 1952, all those people who, prior to partition, were permanent residents of the state and migrated to areas, which come under Pakistan, will be considered state subjects, if they want to return. This is reflected even in the Kashmir constitution and in the Indian Constitution as well. This means that the people who choose to come back will not only claim their property but will also exercise their right to vote if at all a referendum is ever held for Kashmir resolution. It will also change the demographic complexion of Jammu region, which vested interests do not want to happen at this crucial juncture of state’s history. The Act evoked severe reaction from communal elements when the then chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah announced that he will implement the legislation. The state government also contested the petition in the Supreme Court much to the annoyance of a particular community. The community through their advocate urged the court to declare the law ultra vires to constitution. The state government has almost given up the legal fight. The government needs to contest the petition seriously especially when the settlement of West Pakistan refugees is on the cards