As the dust raised over the proposed ‘abrogation’ of Article 35A fails to die down, three West Pakistan refugees have moved the Supreme Court against the Article. The refugees are seeking permanent domicile rights.
The petition filed by the refugees said the provision discriminated against them and forced them to live a life of destitute, devoid of basic human rights.
Petitioners Kali Dass, Sanjay Kumar and Balwant Singh said three lakh refugees were living like destitutes in deplorable conditions, deprived of basic human rights, safety and security and they are not in a position to secure employment in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pertinently, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Monday directed that the petition be clubbed with other petitions challenging Article 35A.
The petitioners are currently residing in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir and are the descendants of refugees from West Pakistan who had migrated to India during the Partition in 1947.
“Even after 67 years, the 3,00,000 refugees live in dilapidated tin shacks and ramshackle huts in ghettos, without any basic amenities like drinking water, sewage or other facilities”, the petition filed by the refugees said.
As “they do not possess permanent residency in Jammu and Kashmir, they cannot hold property, vote in state and municipal elections, secure employment or enjoy any benefits available to permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir,” they said.
The petitioners pointed out that 80 per cent of refugees who migrated from West Pakistan were from backward castes.
Earlier in January this year, the Jammu and Kashmir government has issued identity documents to the West Pakistan refugees which created furor in the political circles of the state. The state government had issued these identity documents following the recommendation from the Union ministry of Home Affairs.
The separatist leaders had then called for state-wide protests against the issuance of the identity cards.
West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee (WPRAC), President Ram Labh Gandhi said that they have hired lawyers from Gujarat to fight the case in the Supreme Court.
“We are doing our best to get this law scrapped from the constitution. We want this Article to be scrapped so that the people who are living here for the last seventy years get full citizenship rights,” Ram Labh Gandhi told Kashmir Vision on phone.
He said that Nitikita Joshi and her team from Gujarat have filed the case for WPRAC petitioners in the apex Court.
Interestingly, Concerned Citizens Group under the leadership of Yashwant Sinha, which visited the valley at least three times had said that the petitions filed in Supreme Court challenging article 35-A, which grants Kashmiris special status, and the central government’s role in it has led to a lot of concern here.