Displaced families from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) had to wait for 70 long years to get Jammu and Kashmir citizenship rights as the former political regimes never made an attempt to end injustice with them. For seven decades they were promised that they would be given equal rights but nothing was done on the ground to address their aspirations and genuine concerns.
Promises made to them remained unfulfilled till August 5, 2019–when the regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a historic decision to scrap Article 370 and merge Jammu and Kashmir completely with the Union of India. The move ended the long fight of the PoK residents for their citizenship rights and brought them at par with every Jammu and Kashmir denizen.
These displaced families had migrated from the other side of the Line of Control in August 1947 after Pakistan came into existence. They were denied the citizenship rights of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State due to Article 370 being in vogue.
Although their Indian citizenship allowed them the right to vote in parliamentary elections and apply for jobs in the Central government they didn’t have the right to own property, or the right to vote in assembly elections or apply for any jobs advertised by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
After the so-called special status of Jammu and Kashmir ended, the government under ‘One Time Central Assistance’ for the displaced persons of PoK, cleared 33,636 cases and an amount of Rs 1452.33 crore was distributed among them. Each family was given financial assistance of Rs 5.5 lakhs. This scheme ended on 31st March last year.
Besides providing them with financial support the government has been putting in relentless efforts to saturate social security schemes, handholding of youth so they pursue their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs and ensuring that they can avail all facilities like other citizens.
Steps are being taken to regularize the colonies of displaced families and new residential areas are being built to provide them with more space. Their culture and traditions are also being preserved.
Pertinently, more than 1.50 lakh displaced persons from PoK were included in the voter list during the revision of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir held last year. These voters for the first time in 70 years will be able to exercise their franchise in the assembly polls in the Himalayan region.
These displaced persons are no more called refugees or treated as strangers in their own land. They have been owned by the government and have become a part and parcel of the ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’ foundation which was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The refugees have been given all the rights and facilities to secure their future and live dignified lives. On the other hand, residents of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are living with lesser rights. The scale of the absence of human rights and the forceful deprivation of social and political privileges have made their lives miserable.
The PoK, which was occupied illegally by Pakistan in October 1947, is treated as a colony by Islamabad. The denizens have been deprived of their basic rights. The PoK’s puppet government is run by the people sitting in Islamabad. Local body elections in PoK have not been held since 1991. There is no right to information act applicable in the region. The local media has no freedom to report freely as it’s controlled by a regulatory body. The coverage of the news is not allowed to diverge from the official Pakistani narrative and this compliance is achieved through a combination of structural censorship and self-censorship. Judiciary is a toothless tiger and the so-called Prime Minister of the PoK is nothing more than a rubber stamp.
Voices seeking freedom from the anarchical rule of Islamabad are becoming shriller in PoK. The region has witnessed many protests in the recent past. Denizens of the PoK on many occasions have expressed dismay over the way they are being treated by the rulers and the Pakistan Army.
The difference between Jammu and Kashmir and PoK is clearly visible. India has owned the displaced families and is treating them at par with every citizen while rulers in Pakistan are treating the PoK residents like slaves.
People have been hitting the streets in PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan demanding wheat flour, pulses, and power supply. They have been protesting against the sharply rising inflation and unemployment.
They are accusing Islamabad of grabbing their land and usurping mineral mines in the region.
China and Pakistan business houses, in the name of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, have been looting the region’s local resources.
The Government of India has left no stone unturned to develop Jammu and Kashmir and has ensured that the people who had come to the region escape from the wrath of extremists in Pakistan are provided with all the possible help and assistance. Islamabad has neither owned the PoK residents nor has taken any steps to develop the region.
The neighbouring country has ensured that the part of Kashmir under its illegal occupation is exploited to the hilt and its denizens remain deprived of even basic amenities.
After the abrogation of Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution, Jammu and Kashmir has been scaling new heights. PoK on the other hand hasn’t witnessed any development for the past 70 years, people have also given up hope about their region witnessing any progress as Pakistan is grappling with a number of issues and for its rulers, the PoK is nothing more than a piece of land as they seem least concerned about the common masses.
The scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has ended all the debates. All the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, including the ones who had come from PoK, are citizens of India having equal rights. All the issues, except reclaiming PoK from Pakistan, have been settled once for all. The Indian leadership has dropped many hints about liberating PoK to restore the pre-1947 position of Jammu and Kashmir and it seems that PoK residents are eagerly waiting for liberation. (ANI)