SRINAGAR: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashish Sareen on Wednesday said that announcing special package for the West Pakistan Refugees in the state of Jammu and Kashmir was the first step towards granting them permanent residence.
“The state and central government in collaboration have formulated policies to rehabilitate West Pakistan Refugees in Kashmir,” Sareen, who is part of the BJP’s Delhi team, said on the sidelines of the BJP’s first-ever torch rally in Srinagar. “We have announced a special package for them. This is first step towards granting them permanent residence in the state. It is our policy to give them complete domicile status in the state,” Sareen said.
The centre has already announced a Rs 2,000-crore-rehabilitation package for West Pakistani Refugees in the state.
The ruling BJP on Wednesday conducted its unprecedented torch procession in the heart of Srinagar to commemorate the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the ideological inspiration of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its “cultural nationalism”.
Vivekananda, a 19th century Hindu reformer was born on January 12, 1863. Historians say the major element of his message was nationalist. He saw his effort very much in terms of a revitalisation of the Hindu nation, through the best of Hindu spirituality.
“We are happy with the participation of youth in our rally,” Sareen said. “We got so many calls. Some NGOs also called saying they have members who want to join the BJP.”
During the torch rally which began from Ram Munshi Bagh police station to TRC Dalgate intersection, scores of BJP members, mostly youth, participated. Holding torches and waving BJP flags, the participants raised slogans in favour of Prime Minister Narendera Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
The torch rally was heavily guarded by police and paramilitary forces.
One of the participants was the district president of the BJP’s youth wing in Anantnag, Kaiser Yousuf.
Yousuf said that he joined the BJP because he considered the saffron party as best for Kashmiris as its main goal was the development of India.
“First of all, BJP is not a religious party. It is a political party. We should give it a chance,” Yousuf, who hails from Dialgam village, said. “The party promises that it believes in grassroots development. It will take everybody along. We should not blame it for a religious bias.”
Tariq Ahmad, a 36-year-old electrician, said that issues like Article 370 and demographic changes by giving permanent residence certificates to West Pakistan Refugees hardly matter.
“A lot of people in our area are married to Bihari women. We are already integrated. Why to complain always for demographic changes? Let people come here, develop Kashmir and develop us,” Ahmad said.
Waseem Ahmad, a person with special needs, was leading the rally on his motor tricycle. He said the BJP should be given a chance in Kashmir.
“Being a person with special needs, nobody listens to us. So we want governments to listen to us. Nobody listens,” Ahmad, who hails from Pattan area, told Kashmir Reader. “We should give a chance to BJP like we did to other political parties. I hope they will change things for the better.”
Touseef Ahmad from Pattan said that if Kashmir merges with India, it will bring development and prosperity to Kashmir.
“If people from mainland India want to live here, they can. I have no problem if West Pakistan Refugees are given permanent status. Or Article 370 is completely revoked,” Ahmad said.
Addressing the torch rally near TRC, state vice president of BJP’s youth wing Er Aijaz told Kashmir Reader that the BJP does not have an easy job in Kashmir.
“But we support it fully for its development agenda,” Aijaz said. “We should follow the teachings of Swami Viveknanda that will take out Kashmir from the era of anger and violence towards peace and prosperity. He was a revolutionary in the real sense.”
He said the only solution of Kashmir was “development and progress.”
When the rally reached near TRC intersection, drivers stopped their cars and looked flustered. The heavy deployment of police managed the traffic. Some commuters were hurling abuses on the people participating in the rally.
“We have seen so much. But one thing Kashmiris are known for is that they do not disappoint anybody. You have to just throw money and see how things unfold in your favour, like this BJP rally,” a man wearing a skull cap who was watching the rally said. “Otherwise, is it possible that BJP will hold rally in the heart of Srinagar? It is the first time I have witnessed such a thing in my life.”