Jammu, Aug 10: The rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday said Article 35-A should be scrapped to permanently settle the West Pakistan refugees in the State.
Addressing a news conference at BJP headquarters in Jammu, State BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said West Pakistan refugees were awaiting settlement for the past 70 years and BJP would continue to fight for their rights.
“West Pakistan refugees should have voting rights like others in the State. They will study in schools and universities in Jammu and will also get jobs there. If people of Jammu are ready to accept them, why not Kashmiri Muslims?” he said.
Sethi said the majority of the people in Jammu region were willing to have to West Pakistan refugees as State subjects.
“People of Jammu consider them as their brothers and sisters and don’t have any objection in their permanent settlement,” Sethi said.
Last year, some West Pakistan refugees, who had migrated to Jammu Kashmir during the 1947 partition, moved Supreme Court challenging Article 35-A of the constitution relating to special rights and privileges of permanent residents of the State.
The petition said that there were around 3 lakh refugees from West Pakistan but those settled in Jammu Kashmir had been denied the rights guaranteed under Article 35-A which are given to the original residents of the State.
In 2016, protests erupted in Kashmir against the alleged move to grant domicile certificate to West Pakistan refugees in J&K.
Saying that BJP would fight for scraping of Article 35-A, Sethi said after this article goes, people from outside the State could also have a right to ownership of property like opening industries, setting up infrastructure, and having residences.
“There won’t be any demographic changes because the statutory right will not vanish,” he said.
Sethi said people from outside the State would start investing here, which will benefit the people especially the youth in the State.
He said there was no possibility to constitutionally defend Article 35-A.
“In fact, it is even difficult to defend Article 370 as well,” he said.
The Supreme Court Monday adjourned the hearing on petitions challenging the validity of Article 35-A to the week starting August 27.