Despite People's Democratic Party (PDP) distancing itself from MP Muzaffar Baig's controversial position on West Pakistan refugees, separatists leaders accused the PDP of appeasing the RSS ahead of the government formation.
"Baigh is a glaring example of having enmity with Kashmir. He hatched conspiracies and amended the law pertaining to Kashmiri women marrying outside the state and thus weakened the state subject law. We feel bad about the plight of West Pakistan refugees and advice Baigh to ask his master in Delhi to immediately settle them in states like Punjab, UP, Haryana," said separatist JKLF chief Yasin Malik.
There are sharp reactions from the Valley-based parties and separatists to Baig's statement where he described the West Pakistan refugees issue as "humanitarian issue" and advocated a middle path.
"There are many Bangladeshi Muslims settled in India. At the same time there are many Muslims living in the United States, should they be kicked out?" Baig asked. "Why our hearts cried when scores of Muslims were killed in Burma. After 9/11 that left many people dead, why didn't US government ask Muslims to leave the country?... According to our faith, God says all human beings have inherited this earth. There is no mention of citizenship. There is talk of Arab-o-Ajam in Islam, so who is Arab and who is Ajam, in Islam all are equal," Baig had said.
Terming Baigh's assertions as "absurd", Malik said, "Lust of power has taken away wisdom from this man and to please his the RSS masters he is talking nonsense."
Hardline Hurriyat, led by Syed Ali Geelani, has also taken exception to Baig's remarks. "PDP has literally bowed down before BJP for the greed of power. If NC's founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah sold Kashmir for power, the PDP seems to have traded the honour and dignity of the state," said hardline Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar.
"The fact is that the PDP has entered into sellout and is speaking BJP's language. Baig isn't an Islamic scholar who can issue fatwas. He may know the law the best, but can't give Islamic fatwas. He before issuing fatwa should consult the Islamic scholars," he said.
Legislator Engineer Rashid also lashed out at the PDP over the issue. "The remarks have badly exposed the PDP. With BJP, the PDP look all set to make compromises on every issue, including Article 370," said Rashid.
Under fire, the PDP has distanced itself from Baig's stand. "It is his personal view and the party has nothing to do with it. No party has power or right to grant anything to West Pakistan refugees except for state legislature," said PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar, who also warned Delhi of any unilateral move on the refugees' issue.
Around 5,000 families who moved from Pakistan during Partition in 1947 live in several districts of the Jammu region. While official figures put their number at around 5,000 families and 45,000 souls, groups advocating citizenship rights for these refugees put their number at 1.25 lakh. Many believe their figure is more than 2 lakh.
A Joint Parliamentary Committee and Union home ministry last year suggested granting of more rights to them, including more job rights and voting rights. However, the separatist group and valley-based mainstream parties see it as a move to change demography in the Muslim-majority state.