Assembly seats: Kashmiri Pandits hail move, PoK refugees call one seat ‘injustice’ - Hindustan Times
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Assembly seats: Kashmiri Pandits hail move, PoK refugees call one seat ‘injustice’

Dec 07, 2023 10:57 PM IST

While Kashmiri Pandits welcomed the decision “whole-heartedly” and called it a “first” step towards possible return to their homeland, refugees of the PoK sulked over one seat to their 12 lakh strong population and called it a “grave injustice”.

Home minister Amit Shah’s announcement on the floor of the parliament to reserve two seats for Kashmiri migrants and one seat for the displaced people from Pakistan occupied-Kashmir (PoK) in Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly has evoked a mixed reaction from the two communities.

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While Kashmiri Pandits welcomed the decision “whole-heartedly” and called it a “first” step towards possible return to their homeland, refugees of the PoK sulked over one seat to their 12 lakh strong population and called it a “grave injustice”.

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The Lok Sabha, on Wednesday, passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, which sought to nominate two members from the Kashmiri migrant community and one representing the displaced persons from PoK to the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.

Dr Tej Krishan Bhat, former general secretary of All State Kashmiri Pandit Conference (ASKPC), said, “the reservation of two seats, to be nominated by the government, is a blessing for the entire community. We are indebted to the BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There had been governments in the past but none bothered to give us representation and politically empower the beleaguered community.”

Dr Bhat exuded confidence that with the nomination of two community members to the legislature, the problems and issues plaguing the internally displaced community for the past over 33 years and even before 1990 would get resolved.

The veteran community leader said, “We also hope to see a similar representation to the community in the Parliament in near future.”

Home minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the two bills linked to Jammu and Kashmir that were tabled by the union government in the parliament, were aimed at providing justice to those deprived of their rights for the past over seven decades.

Sandeep Raina, a leader of the Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj (YAIKS), said, “We are very happy that PM has announced two seats for us. We have been waiting for long for this political empowerment. We would like that similar representation given to us in the parliament.”

“34 years on, we have pinned high hopes on the present government led by Modi ji. In the past our issues were not taken seriously by the successive regimes. We see it as a first step towards our return to our roots in Kashmir, to our motherland,” said Raina.

“However, we would like to urge the government to elect the two representatives from the community through an electoral process and not nominate them to the legislature. I believe that community leaders, who have really worked on the ground for the past over three decades, should represent us in the legislature,” added Raina.

Speaking during the debate on the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, Shah said the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits could have been averted had terrorism been tackled without consideration for vote-bank politics.

However, PoK refugees sulked over one seat to them.

Chairman of the SOS International, an organisation of the PoK refugees, Rajiv Chuni, said, “One assembly seat for 12 lakh strong population of PoK refugees in J&K is an insult to us.”

He referred to various commissions and interlocutors, including former J&K governor NN Vohra, KC Pant and professor Radha Kumar, who advocated at least eight seats to the PoK refugees in the legislature.

He urged the government to de-freeze eight seats for displaced persons from PoK. Apni Party leader Pavneet Kaur has also demanded de-freezing of eight seats out of 24 seats frozen (before J&K reorganization act 2019) for the PoK refugees in Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly.

“For decades, our population suffered after they were uprooted in 1947, 1965 and 1971 from their ancestral houses and agricultural fields. These displaced persons (PoJKs) were settled in the border belt of Jammu region on the Line of Control and along International Border,” she said.

“When the country has acknowledged different tribes and provided them reservation under the Indian Constitution, it becomes important to accept the political neglect of the displaced people and eight legislative seats should be reserved for them,” she added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    A principal correspondent, Ravi Krishnan Khajuria is the bureau chief at Jammu. He covers politics, defence, crime, health and civic issues for Jammu city.

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