Separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir have announced a state-wide protest on Friday, following reports that said the government has started issuing domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees.
The announcement by the government comes at a time when Kashmir is yet to recover from the aftermath of the five-month-long unrest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
Separatist groups lashed out at the government, particularly ruling party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), of attempting to “change the demography” of the state to fulfill the “Hindutva agenda” of its coalition partner, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Separatists — Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik — in a joint statement, said the attempts would not be tolerated as these were things of “life and death” for Kashmiris.
“Issuing domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees, court verdict challenging the sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir and allowing banks to confiscate and hold properties in the state are issues of life and death for our existence as Muslims and Kashmiris.
“PDP has again started working on its anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim agenda but the people of Jammu Kashmir will not hesitate to offer any sacrifice to oppose such actions,” they said.
Kashmir’s prominent daily Greater Kashmir on Wednesday reported that the state government has finally started issuing domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees, after decades of controversy over the matter.
The paper quoted Jammu divisional commissioner, Dr Pawan Kotwal, as saying that the certificate was not a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) but just an authentication that the West Pak refugees reside in Jammu and Kashmir, giving them the liberty to apply for jobs.
The BJP has been advocating for citizenship and voting rights to these refugees. However, separatists see these “manoeuvres” aimed at “changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir”.
According to BJP leaders, there are some 60,000 refugees living in Jammu division. They settled in Jammu after some 5,700 families migrated from Pakistan in 1947. They are citizens of India and have the right to vote. The BJP has been advocating for state citizenship and voting rights in assembly elections to these refugees”.
The three separatist leaders, however, said they were not against rehabilitation of these refugees.
“On humanitarian grounds, we fully support their every demand and urge the government to facilitate them and provide them all the rights they are eligible to. India is a huge country with more than 30 states and if they are sincere, honest and feel the sufferings of these refugees, they can settle them in any of their states...” they said.