Jammu: Refugees from West Pakistan, who migrated to Jammu region during Partition and settled here, were ecstatic as the government scrapped provisions of Article 370, saying the decision would end their long "slavery".
The refugees, who were so far denied the Jammu and Kashmir citizenship, lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the historic decision and said August 5, the day when the government revoked provisions of the Article 370, will be written in "golden words".
"The announcement has sparked celebrations in the houses of 25,000 families which had migrated from Pakistan during Partition of the country in 1947. We have been struggling for our rights especially the citizenship of Jammu and Kashmir over the past 71 years," Labha Ram Gandhi, President of West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee, told PTI.
Gandhi said the community was thankful to the prime minister for this "bold and historic" decision, which "freed us from the chains of slavery".
Gandhi said their ancestors came here from Sialkote and other nearby areas as Jammu and Kashmir was the nearest place for them to get to after the Partition.
"While Pakistani refugees in other parts of the country enjoyed their freedom soon after their migration and restarted their lives, we were caught in a vicious conspiracy and were denied citizenship rights under the garb of Article 370 and Article 35A," he said.
Gandhi said he is pained when someone addresses him as Pakistani refugee.
Refugees from West Pakistan, which was renamed Pakistan in 1970, were denied basic citizenship right of Jammu and Kashmir, right to vote in assembly elections, right to own property, right to education in professional colleges and right to government employment in the state.
He said the refugees were given Indian citizenship after their migration and the right to vote in Parliament elections but denial of citizenship rights left the community virtually beg for their survival over the years.
"All rights including the vote to elect our representative in the assembly was denied to us, our educated youths are jobless," he said and lauded the BJP for ending "injustice with the community".
He said the state constitution came into existence in 1957, which was 10 years after the settlement of Pakistani refugees in the state.
"Article 370 came into existence in 1950 and we migrated in 1947, while Article 35A was enforced in 1953, four years before Jammu and Kashmir constitution came into effect. The one who have written the constitution of the state kept himself blind folded and failed to notice our presence in the state. It was deliberate under a well planned conspiracy, which ended yesterday," he said.
"It is nothing short of a festival for us," he added.
Bansi Lal (70), a deputy Sarpanch of Karpalpur panchayat, said the locals were very happy as "the refugees who are spread in various villages of Mundal block were facing tremendous problems due to denial of citizenship rights by the Jammu and Kashmir government".
Over 20,000 Pakistani refugees are living in 60 villages falling under 10 panchayats of Mundal block, he said adding that "we know their struggle and the problems they were facing and the government has made a right move to abrogate Article 360 which was discriminatory in nature".
"They are our neighbours for last many decades. We share sorrow and grief and have married in each other families. The youth of the community were facing lot of problems in getting government jobs or joining forces," he said....