The Narendra Modi-led government is all-set to roll out a package for refugees of Indian ethnicity from Pakistan and displaced communities like Kashmiri Pandits, as promised by the Prime Minister during his election campaign.
Refugees from Pakistan settled in Kashmir could also be getting voting rights and other citizenship rights.
“The contents of the package are yet to be decided. No meeting has also been fixed so far. But it is high on policy priorities,” said an official source.
The return of Kashmiri Pandits is being discussed at top levels of the government with a formal announcement expected soon, sources added.
For the estimated 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits — forced out of Kashmir after militancy in the 1990s — hopes were raised after Modi promised to facilitate their return to the Valley at a Jammu rally in December last year.
“We are hopeful that the Modi government will address our short-term and long-term concerns”, said Moti Kaul, president of All India Kashmiri Samaj.
Refugees from western Pakistan — the other set of people benefitting from the proposed project – have been demanding voting rights for a long time. More than 150,000 west Pakistani refugees — who moved to India during Partition and settled in the border belts of Jammu and Samba districts — do not enjoy citizenship rights.
Refugees from Pakistan also include those who had come from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to the Indian side. Refugees of war— those who cross over in the middle of a conflict— will also be considered under this package.
This isn’t the first initiative to be announced for Kashmiri Pandits. As part of a return package, the previous UPA-2 government had announced 6,000 government jobs for Kashmiri migrants in the Valley.
Under this package, the salaries of 3,000 jobs were to be paid by the Centre while the state government would bear the burden for the rest.
However, the scheme didn’t turn out to be a success after the state government recruited people for the 3,000 jobs paid for by the Centre but didn’t award any jobs under its own quota.