Who are we, where are our homes, ask PoK refugees of 1947
For the refugees of 1947 from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, neither the times have changed nor the attitude of the country and state leadership toward them. They feel that they are 'people of nowhere' and their status has remained undefined in the past 60 years.
They are neither refugees, nor fully settled citizens. Their agony increases with every passing day, for the past six decades have been a "script of tragedy, mourning and hopelessness".
It has become evident to them the way their rehabilitation has been hanging for the past over 60 years- they have neither homes nor land which they can call their own despite the fact that they are citizens of the state.
"Ever since the fall of Muzzaffarabad, Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimber in 1947, when tribal invaders killed 50-60,000 of their kin and we had to flee to safety-we are still the camp people," recalled Rajiv Chuni, President of SOS, an organisation of refugees from PoK.
What has hurt them most is that at an all parties meet in Srinagar on Saturday where their issue was discussed, the leadership of Kashmir clubbed them with West Pakistani refugees and muddled the whole thing. The distinction between PoK and Pakistan was lost.
Both National Conference and PDP severely opposed the rehabilitation of the refugees and cited the current peace process and constitutional provisions to say that their settlement would create more problems at this juncture.
The PoK refugees, who have had their own holocaust at the hands of tribal invaders, were lodged in camps and they were promised that they would be restored to their homes, as and when the PoK would be vacated from the occupation of Pakistan.
Neither the Government has paid any relief to them, nor are they treated as refugees. They are still the men and women living in-Bhor, Chatham, Badyal Brahamana and other camps. Their estimated number is five lakh.
They have heard the leadership talk of making the Line of Control-dividing Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan –as the international border, or settling the matter with Pakistan. "There is no visible effort to vacate the PoK, which would have given us any hope. There is no hope for us," Rajiv Chuni observed.
"Even if by any miracle, the PoK is restored a major chunk of Mirpur has been converted into a lake of Mangla dam. Are they going to lodge us in the lake," he asks. "It is ridiculous."
These refugees are demanding that they be treated at par with the Kashmiri Pandit migrants, who are being given Rs 3,000 monthly relief per family, free ration and other facilities. In the past 16 years, Kashmiri migrants have been shifted from tented colonies to one-room tenements, and now satellite townships are under construction for them.
"If in the past 16 years Rs 4,000 crore has been given to Kashmiri migrants, why can't the same yardstick be applied for us." This is the question refugees have come to ask.
They also have a poser for the National Conference that is propagating the resettlement of the people who fled to PoK in 1947 to come back and reclaim their properties under the Resettlement Act, "why cannot we be given the properties here in lieu of what we left behind," asks Jitender Singh, another refugee of 1947.
They have another question: "The Government has reserved 24 seats for the people of PoK. We are the people from that area, why, we, the one-third of the population, are not entitled for one third of seats."
Rajiv said: "The governments and leaders have forgotten us. And there was some hope that the all parties meet would do something for us. But the issue has been muddled and we are swinging between hope and despair."
These refugees, who were promised a fair deal by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, on the eve of the all parties meet in Srinagar last weekend, are a disappointed lot.
"Nothing seems to be going right for us," Rajiv said in a tone of resignation. "We have lived our lives and our children-the fourth generation is still looking for their homes, and the question which we are unable to answer is: "where are our homes."