Press Trust of India

Land ownership rights: West Pakistan refugees in JK say dignity restored

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Chakra (Bishnah), May 5 (PTI) West Pakistan refugees have thanked Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for “restoring our dignity” and correcting a “historic wrong” by deciding to give land ownership rights to those who have been living in the UT for the past 76 years.

Thanking the lieutenant governor, they said the decision has brought cheers on their faces.

“What the LG has done is good (for us). We are happy. For 70 years, we were living here and we could not own lands and houses,” the 25-year-old Sonu Kumar told PTI here.

Sonu said his grandparents came to India 70 years ago.

“My father and I were born here. But people used to call us Pakistanis. We used to get angry. We are Hindustani, India is our country. We are Hindus. We thank Sinha sahib from the core of our heart,” he added.

In a major decision, LG Sinha announced on May 1 that the administration will grant ownership rights to the refugees for land allotted to them on their migration to India from Pakistan in 1947.

Some of the refugees said Articles 370 and 35A had denied political rights and other benefits to them and hindered their prosperity and upward mobility. Abrogation of these special provisions made them citizens of India, they added.

Soom Lal Saini, 70, whose family came from Beri Pind in Pakistan in 1947, said he had been living with 11 members of his family in a one-room house for several years. He said they sustained their lives by working as labourers for generations.

“It is the biggest gift of my life. Now I will get ownership of the house. It will restore our dignity,” Saini said, adding it corrected a historic wrong.

“We are very happy that the LG sahib gave us the rights. We thank him, it is a matter of happiness,” he said, adding that now his children will get government jobs too.

Rani Devi too thanked LG Sinha for “thinking about our children”.

“Neither we have our own place to live nor any land for farming. It was an insult to us. Our children could not get jobs. But he (LG) has done so much to help us. We are happy now,” she added.

After these refugees came to India in 1947, they were given voting rights.

But Article 370 barred them from applying for government jobs, owning lands, avail scholarships and get admission to colleges. The abrogation of the article on August 5, 2019, paved the way for them to get the domicile status. And now, they will get land ownership rights.

“As per official records, 5,764 families who migrated from Pakistan to the border areas of Jammu having lands of 46,666 kanals with them. But today families have extended and as per our records there are 21,160 families in the community now. Grant of ownership of land and houses should be given as per our figure,” West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee President Labha Ram Gandhi said.

“May 1, when the LG came to Chakroi to announce this decision, was a red-letter day for all of us. There is no end to our happiness. We thank him from the bottom of our hearts. First foremost we should thank the central government, particularly the prime minister and the home minister,” he said.

Some refugees said they were behind others in terms of development and education but the decision by the Jammu and Kashmir administration will give our children a “new future”.

 


Press Trust of India

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