Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday clarified it was not granting domicile certificates to West Pakistan Refugees and the settlers were instead being issued identity cards, after protests against the reported decision peaked in the state.
The government said a “false and contrived impression” was being created over the change of status of WPRs and reports on granting domicile certificates were being “deliberately” spread to hit the political-economic interests of the people.
“It seems an orchestrated and misleading campaign has been launched to create an impression that the government is changing the status of the WPRs and they are being provided domicile certificates,” Minister for Education and state government spokesman Naeem Akhtar said in a statement in Jammu.
The WPRs, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.
Earlier today, independent legislator Sheikh Abdul Rashid and his supporters were detained in Srinagar after they tried to march against the move to issue domicile certificates to WPRs. Separatists too have objected to the reported move.
Akhtar said the refugees who settled in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the partition include those from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and then-West Pakistan.
“While the refugees from PoK have the status of the permanent residents of the state, those from West Pakistan are not entitled to permanent residence as they are not the domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
He said as WPRs can’t apply for jobs in the state, being non-state subjects, to facilitate their applications to get work in the paramilitary forces and other central government establishments, the state government has issued them identity certificates, which is in the same format as in the voter list for parliamentary polls.
“Issuance of identity certificates does in no way change the status of West Pakistan Refugees and they continue to be non-state subjects,” he clarified.
Akhtar said earlier this year too controversies unfortunately broke and passions were raised “deliberately” on issues relating to Pandit Colonies and Ex-Servicemen Colonies, which ended in a long spell of violence and unrest.
“Now when the situation has started improving in Kashmir with academic, tourism, developmental and economic activities slowly picking up again, unfortunately speculative reports are being passed around about the change of status of the WPRs to create confusion and once again fuel disquiet,” he said, urging people to not to give credence to “unsubstantiated” reports.