NEW DELHI: Members of the community of West Pakistan Refugees in J&K have moved the Supreme Court to challenge Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which grants power to the J&K legislature to determine the state’s “permanent residents”.
Their petition says that there are about 3 lakh refugees from West Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir who have been denied state citizenship rights given under Article 35A.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud tagged the plea of the refugees, who are mostly settled in Kathua district of Jammu region, with similar petitions challenging 35A that are pending before the court.
A Kashmiri Pandit woman, Dr Charu Wali Khanna, has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Article 35A.
The petition of the West Pakistan Refugees has been filed by Kali Das, his son Sanjay Kumar, and one other person. They have said in their plea that they were seeking conferment of basic natural and human rights which at present are denied to them.
“The petitioners are persons who migrated from Pakistan to India in 1947. They were assured by the government that they should stay in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on the assurance that they would be granted Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC), which would permit them to purchase properties and own a house, opportunity to get a government job and reservation benefits, since most of them belong to SC/ST/OBC category, and a right to vote in state and municipal elections,” their plea said.
The petition claimed that since 1947, the refugees have been given repeated assurances by successive governments but never given PRC, thereby keeping them as refugees for over 65 years.
“Petitioners are filing the instant writ petition for conferring the status of permanent resident on around 3,00,000 West Pakistan refugees, who have been denied basic rights like the right to employment, education, ownership of property and political participation,” the petition said.
It said denial of any of these necessary, natural and basic human rights results in “denial of basic civilisational recognition to a set of humanity, which defies basic human values and civilisational ethos”.
“Certain group of citizens of India for whose rights this petition is being moved are subjected to extreme cruelty and bonded labour treatment. The state government granted permanent resident status to some of the West Pakistan refugees subject to exception that they could be employed only as sweepers,” the petition submitted.
The plea claimed that the refugees and their children are not allowed to hold any position higher than sweeper and the children are not entitled to gain education in government universities or avail any scholarship to gain education.