Jammu’s Talwara migrants suffer discrimination: Sandhya Jain. Consistent with the step-motherly treatment meted out to citizens of Jammu province, Hindu migrants from the districts of Reasi, Udhampur (Pauni, Mahore, Gool), Doda (Ramban, Doda), Rajouri (Rajouri, Budhal) and Poonch, who were forced to flee at the height of terrorism in 1996, continue to rot in the Talwara camp, as the State Government refuses to dole out the relief ordered by the Supreme Court. The suffering citizens have now filed a motion of Contempt of Court. This has reinforced sentiments in favour of a separate Statehood for Jammu province, and for the abolition of Article 370, which fosters Muslim separatism in the Valley without any commensurate benefits to ordinary citizens, regardless of religious affiliation. Apart from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Panthers Party (PP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), has also demanded the abolition of Article 370. Way back in November 2002, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court ordered the State to grant Talwara migrants relief at par with that extended to Pandits who were driven out of the Kashmir valley in 1990, but the State Government challenged the order in the Apex Court. On July 13, 2006, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and, on a petition filed by the Panthers Party, directed the State and Central Governments to provide relief to the migrants at par with that given to Pandits. It ordered the State Government to pay pending relief amounting to Rs 21 crore to the migrants who had not received any relief since 2004, as per the Government’s own admission. Seven years later, however, the registered migrants (2,202 families, about 11,904 persons) continue to languish at the margins of existence, without relief. Some are said to have perished from sheer neglect. Nor have they been helped by the State Government to return to their old homesteads and rebuild their lives. It is pertinent that in its affidavit before the Supreme Court, the State Government had committed to pay the balance relief, and also to give [i] cash assistance of Rs 400 per person per month subject to a maximum of Rs 1600 per family per month; [ii] ration at the rate of ‘atta’ 9 kg and rice 2 kg (total 11 kg); [iii] Ten litres of kerosene oil per family per month; and [iv] cash assistance of Rs 300 per cattle per month for purchase of fodder. The Chief Justice of J&K High Court took note of a letter from the State Government to the effect that, as per the agreement reached with migrants, relief on these lines would be granted at first for the months of October-November 2007, and extended till March 2008. The State Government specifically committed to pay arrears as per agreement from April 1, 2004 to September, 2007 as envisaged in Apex Court directions of July 13, 2006. The Chief Justice noted that the “purpose of writing that letter… was to pursue the Central Government to pay a sum of Rs 21.08 crores to the State Government in order to enable the State Government to honour its commitment towards those identified migrants.” The Court observed, “It is the obligation of the State…to make available relief to those migrants from April 2004.” It added that the State must discharge its duty as quickly as possible failing which, it would have no option but to hold the State Government in contempt. The Court noted that State officials had pointed out that their obligation to pay arrears was dependent upon release of matching or agreed funds by Central Government; it warned that since the Central Government has not released the funds, “We may also have to proceed in contempt against Central Government and its functionaries.” If a High Court observes that the Central Government may be held in contempt for not obeying orders to provide relief to Hindu victims of terrorism, who are registered as migrants by the State itself after following due process, we may safely conclude that the growing Hindu sense of victimhood all over the country is not without foundation. So, callous has the State Government, abetted by the Centre, been towards the Jammu migrants, that earlier in April, hundreds of children and parents (all Jammu migrants), resorted to staging a dharna in front of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir to pray for relief and justice. But neither the State Government, nor the Central Government, seems to care for the plight of marginalised Hindus. Dogra migrants of Jammu province are, in fact, victims of a double whammy. The flight of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley was covered extensively by the national and international media owing to the brutality, violence and threats that accompanied their exodus, which included the hysterical ranting of then Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Kashmiri Pandits organised themselves in several groups to propagate their cause at several forums; Hindus of Jammu have been less adept in this regard. Under the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the relief doled out to Kashmiri migrants increased (in cash and kind) and is now fourfold; but Jammu migrants continue to starve for even the meagre relief agreed upon. The Supreme Court’s direction that they must receive relief at par with the Pandits in a long overdue corrective; provided, of course, that it is given. Although, the State Government has failed to resettle the displaced Kashmiri Pandit families in the Valley, it has allotted lands, or houses/flats to the families in Jammu and other places. But there is till date no rehabilitation programme for displaced Hindus from Jammu province who have lost their lands and houses, which have been illegally occupied by activists belonging to a political party. In this regard, there is a need to urgently investigate charges that the revenue officers in the districts and towns from where the Hindus were forced out in 1996 have changed mutation/gardawari to other names. This is blatantly illegal. The Jammu migrants are willing to return to their old homesteads, and the State Government and Government of India must make it possible for them to do so. Within the State, there is a growing fear that the National Conference regime may once again be playing a dangerous game for implementation of the Dixon Plan to establish an Islamic Republic in Kashmir by hiving off the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu Pradesh. The only way to stave off this threat is to return all Hindu exiles, Pandits, Dogras, and others, to the respective hearths from where they were uprooted, in the Valley and in the districts of Jammu. For this, full security must be provided to them in the villages and towns to which they hope to return.
Posted on: Fri, 09 Aug 2013 09:12:55 +0000
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