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Thursday, June 1, 2023

These forgotten displaced people demand PoJK Assembly seats be unfrozen

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<br>These people, known as the Displaced Persons from the PoJK, are around 17 lakh in number, out of which 12 lakh are living in Jammu. They arrived in Jammu from the PoJK areas at the time of partition.

Some of them came during the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan from the Chamb area. Though refugees they could not get that status since Delhi considers PoJK as an integral part of India. They are bona fide citizens as per the earlier state subject laws of erstwhile J&K state.

The PoJK displaced have voting rights, can contest and take up jobs in J&K. Unlike the West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) and Valmikis they have not faced discrimination. They are registered voters from the areas they reside in and have taken part in every election.

So what is the situation with these PoJK displaced persons?

The PoJK displaced persons (DPs) want that the Assembly seats kept reserved for Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir areas be defreezed. India has kept 24 seats reserved for the parts of Jammu and Kashmir which have been illegally occupied by Pakistan.

The PoJK DPs want that they be allowed to vote from the seats as per their origin. Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, a prominent organisation of Displaced Persons from PoJK, while speaking to Ajit Weekly News said, "Our demand is to defreeze one-third of the seats reserved for us in the Assembly and get them filled by allowing us to vote at our present places of stay to elect representatives for our native areas still under the occupation of Pakistan."

He says the arrangement could be like the one made for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits who are allowed to vote from the places of their origin in the valley but vote in Jammu.

"When we claim PoJK as ours then why not let us vote from the places where we have come from. This can keep India’s claim alive.

"Time and again we have been raising this issue. A Parliamentary Standing Committee has also made the suggestion that eight of the total 24 reserved Assembly seats should be allotted to the displaced persons living in the Jammu region," said Chuni.

The 183rd report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs regarding the problems faced by refugees and displaced persons of J&K, was tabled on the floor of the House on December 22, 2014. It had recommended defreezing eight out of the 24 PoJK reserved seats.

The report said, "Representatives of the PoJK displaced persons were of the view that eight Assembly seats were designated for the territorial constituencies of the state that lie in PoJK should be released in favour of displaced persons. ..

"The Committee considers that the Government of India should take up the matter of defreezing of 8 seats for PoJK DPs with the State Government of J&K keeping in view the problems being faced by DPs. The Ministry may impress upon the State Government to make amendments in the State Constitution, if necessary, at the earliest."

The report was submitted in 2014 and five years later J&K was stripped off its special status. Chuni said, "The Centre has everything in its hand. It can do it directly now."

The Delimitation Commission on Jammu and Kashmir had also recommended reservation of seats for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits and DPs from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Though the Commission did not give any seats to these communities from its final award of 90 seats, it recommended to the government to make provisions for nominations.

It said, "The Central government may consider giving the Displaced Persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir some representation in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly by way of nomination of representatives of the Displaced Persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir."

The PoJK’s did welcome the recommendation of the Delimitation Commission, but they feel the defreezing of eight reserved seats will help them more.

"The seats will come alive in the Assembly. Besides, helping us raise our issues and concerns, this can help India strategically also," feels Chuni.

The PoJK displaced persons are hopeful that they will get their due.

(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at deepika.b@ians.in)

–Ajit Weekly News<br>dpb/bg

News Credits – I A N S

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