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The displaced people from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) on Sunday accused both the sitting Lok Sabha members of Jammu region, Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, of being “opportunists” who sought votes from the community but failed to show commitment towards addressing their legitimate issues, either within or outside the Parliament.

Hundreds of PoJK displaced persons under the banner of SOS International, a registered frontline organisation of PoJK displaced persons, led by its chairman Rajiv Chuni, assembled at Bakshi Nagar here and staged a strong demonstration against the “discriminatory and hostile policies” pursued by the incumbent double-engine government in Jammu and Kashmir and at the Centre towards the POJK refugees’ community during the last ten years.

“This double-engine government in Jammu and Kashmir and at the Centre has proved catastrophic for us as it has shown no serious concern in resolving our issues. Over the past decade, the policies of both the state government and the central government have been discriminatory and rather hateful, which has pushed us to the wall,” Chuni said while addressing the protestors on Sunday. The refugee leader said both the sitting parliamentarians of Jammu region, Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, have consistently ignored and failed to address the legitimate grievances and suffering of the PoJK community under a ‘planned conspiracy’ during the last ten years.

“Their criminal silence, both within and outside the parliament, towards the plight and pain being endured by the PoJK community only contributed to our hardships and destruction. We dare them to provide evidence of any instance where they have raised our issues either within or outside the parliament,” he said, adding, “It is quite regrettable that these politicians from the ruling class, who sought our votes, only exploited us for vote bank politics and never displayed any interest or commitment to address our concerns.” The senior refugee leader said, “Our decades-long struggle for the legitimate rights of PoJK displaced persons has been intentionally and willfully sabotaged by this double-engine government and their representatives in the Jammu region.

They did nothing for the welfare of PoJK refugees. They owe an explanation to lakhs of displaced persons from PoJK living in different parts of the country for their criminal silence before seeking votes in the current Lok Sabha elections”. He referred to the comprehensive package announced by the then cabinet of the Jammu and Kashmir government in October 2014 wherein the government made a provision of Rs 25 lakh compensation for each PoJK community family, reservation in professional and technical colleges of the country for our youths and a provision of creation of 8500 jobs for the youths belonging to PoJK community. “The package was an outcome of the decades-long struggle of community leaders. Unfortunately, the BJP leadership in Jammu and Kashmir, including both the sitting MPs of the Jammu region, never bothered to utter a single word about this package and they continued to maintain a cryptic silence over it”, he said, and demanded that the Government of India should religiously and in-principle fulfil the package without any further delay.

“Leave aside Rs 25 lakh as announced by the then government, even the Rs 5.5 lakh financial package for the families of 1947 PoJK displaced persons has not been disbursed. In the last two years, not even a case of PoJK displaced persons has been settled while both the sitting MPs remained mute spectators to our sufferings under a planned conspiracy,” Chuni said. He also strongly criticised the Central government for reserving a single seat for the displaced PoJK people and described it as “humiliating” and “insulting” for a community of 17 lakh people.

“It is a grave injustice to the displaced POJK people. The people who got displaced from Kashmir have a total population of just 1.57 lakh (as per the statement of the Union Home Minister in the Parliament) but they have been allotted two seats on the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission only, while the PoJK community of 17 lakh people has been meted out to grave injustice and humiliation when only one seat has been reserved for them even though over a dozen recommendations were made for adequate political empowerment of the community”.

“Instead of ensuring political empowerment of POJK displaced persons who have remained the victims of decades-long turmoil, the Centre has tried to rub salt in their wounds by reserving a single seat for them in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. The PoJK DPs had been demanding eight seats in the legislative assembly for decades and it had been strongly recommended by various Commissions and Committees over the years but the ruling dispensation at the Centre played a cruel joke on POJK displaced persons,” the refugee leader said. Chuni said, “The Wadhwa Committee as well as Interlocutors report favoured reserving eight seats for PoJK refugees in Jammu and Kashmir assembly. Thereafter, the KC Pant-led Interlocutor panel and later a panel composed of MM Ansari and Radha Kumar as Interlocutors also made similar recommendations.

A parliamentary standing committee headed by former vice president of India, Venkaiah Naidu, in its report submitted in December 2014, had strongly recommended political empowerment of the community by reserving eight seats in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for PoJK community”. He added that these recommendations were strong evidence for the ruling dispensation at the Centre to reserve eight seats for the displaced PoJK people in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly based on their population in the Union Territory and outside Jammu and Kashmir. “It is unfortunate that we have been left politically disempowered despite these strong recommendations”, he said.

Chuni also took a swipe at the Centre for denying Scheduled Tribune (ST) status to the displaced PoJK persons staying in Jammu, Samba, Reasi, Udhampur and Kathua districts, and other parts of the country. “It is sheer mockery that the government has tried to create a divide among the displaced POJK persons. Our people (PoJK refugees) living in Rajouri and Poonch districts have been given ST status under Pahari quota but the same is being denied in Jammu district and other parts of the country. How can the government justify this disparity if a section of the community gets some benefits and others are deprived of it? This is a deliberate attempt to create a wedge within the community to reap political benefits out of it.

This is the violation of ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vishwas’ slogan being given by the BJP itself,” he said. The leader also demanded that the POJK displaced persons living in Jammu and Kashmir be allowed to visit their religious shrines including temples and Gurdwaras in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “An attempt is being made to give control of Sharda Peeth Shrine in PoJK to the people who had never been associated with the shrine before the migration in Kashmir Valley. The real stakeholders including the displaced POJK persons from Mirpur, Palandri, Bagh, Kotli, Bhimber, Chhamb and Muzaffarabad have kept out of the purview of Sharda Peeth Shrine which is quite unfortunate.

Being the real stakeholders of these shrines, the ruling government has relegated us to the second position under a planned conspiracy,” he said. He also strongly pitched for the creation of Mirpur–Muzaffarabad–Poonch Scouts having the full strength of PoJK refugees to effectively deal with the terrorists infiltrating into Indian territory from Pakistan. “We should bear in mind that diamonds cut diamonds. Our people are well-versed in the language being spoken on the other side of the LoC, especially in the areas of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Apart from this, they are capable of effectively dealing with terrorists originating from Pakistani soil. It will not only help in curbing militancy but also provide big employment to our people,” he said. Chuni said their struggle would continue till the last man of the PoJK community gets justice.