A divisional level officer said that over 1,900 domicile certificates have been granted to West Pakistan refugees and the process to grant all of them citizenship certificates is going on. "We will ensure that no West Pakistan refugees are left out. We will grant all of them domicile certificates," the officer said.
Ram, who lives in a hamlet comprising mud houses belonging to West Pakistan refugees at Rangpur Sidhriya close to R S Pura border town, said that it took over 72 years for Hindus to get justice in the country but the piece of paper has given a new hope to the community.
"It is the most important day of my life. This will change the fate of our young generations who will now live as honourable residents of Jammu and Kashmir and not unwanted citizens, like we have lived here for the past 72 years," he said. Barred from government jobs, scholarships and admission in colleges, welfare schemes, and right to own land, 1.5 lakh WPRs in the union territory were 'stateless' in India for more than 70 years.
The refugee youths are mostly illiterate and earn their livelihood by working as labourers in agriculture fields in border belts of R S Pura, Samba, Hiranagar and Jammu, while elderly people work as domestic helps and in some cases children learn to beg. "Now our children can have property, education, jobs and they can vote. They can also get admission in professional colleges with reservation facilities. They will not face what we faced here," Ganesh Chander of Arnia said. "We are very happy that we are finally being considered the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. There is a new hope among our youth who can now also become officers and get jobs," he added.
The refugees thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu for ensuring justice by scrapping Article 370. The president of West Pakistani Refugees Action committee (WPRAC) Labha Ram Gandhi said, "Our people have decided to celebrate August 5 like Independence day. We got real freedom after nearly 73 years of Independence. It is our Deepawali." "We had to struggle for basic needs and the right to live in India," Gandhi said.
"If I K Gujral, who migrated from West Pakistan to settle in Delhi could become the prime minister of the country, at least the West Pakistani refugees in Jammu and Kashmir should have the right to live, seek education, employment, own land and the right to exercise their franchise," he said.