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J&K exiles can return, claim property

J&K exiles can return, claim property

Author: Arun Joshi/Syed Liaquat Ali
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: November 13, 2001
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/nonfram/131101/dlnat63.asp

The Supreme Court has paved the way for Pakistanis to get Indian citizenship - in Jammu and Kashmir. After a 19-year legal tussle, the J&K government can now resettle people who migrated to Pakistan from the state between March 1, 1947 and May 14, 1954. Their widows, wives and descendants can also return to the state. This follows the Supreme Court's refusal to answer a presidential reference on the validity of the Resettlement Act, 1980.

The apex court's decision has caused concern in Delhi. While the Bill allows those who return to claim their assets and properties, it is silent on what will happen to those J&K citizens who are already there? Worse, those planning to return don't need to show their passports or immigration papers.

It all started in 1982 when the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Permit for Resettlement in (or permanent return to) the State Bill was referred to a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court by the President.

The Bill was introduced in the Assembly as a private member's Bill in March 1980 by Abdul Rahim Rather of the National Conference. Though it was passed, governor B.K. Nehru sent the Bill back to the legislature for reconsideration.

On September 30, 1982, the President placed the reference before the Supreme Court seeking advice. But during the pendency of the reference, the legislature passed it in its autumn session, within a month of Farooq Abdullah becoming Chief Minister on October 4, 1982. The Governor, left with no option, gave his assent to the Bill on October 6.

Rather, who is now J&K Finance Minister, feels the Supreme Court's refusal to comment on it has vindicated his stand. "I am the happiest man today," he said.

But Opposition parties in the state feel that if implemented, the Act could have serious repercussions in the state. Says PCC vice-president M.R. Sharma: "If the law is enforced, it would mean uprooting tens of thousands of families and creating a 1947-type situation. There is the danger of civil war."

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