Online news channel!

Tag: refugees

J&K: Partition refugees deserve domicile status, but this is not the time to play with fire

It is enough to make one want to scream!

Just five months ago, various sections of the ruling class seemed to be at the end of their tether with regard to Kashmir. Enraged teenagers held large parts of the Valley to ransom for several months. During that time, India’s Parliament humiliated itself by knocking on various leaders doors, only to be rebuffed. The army was called out in Kupwara and right across south Kashmir – although that last resort that was not used even when there was a greater rage on the streets in 2010.

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. ReutersUnrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

There is every reason to believe that the unrest of 2016 has only subsided; it is not over. Anger still simmers. Indeed, many observers within Kashmir not only predict more unrest in 2017 but that it will surface much earlier in the year than it did in 2016.

And yet, various sections of what pass for political leaders have been playing short-term politics of the sort that prioritises expected advantage to one’s party over the national interest or the objective of long-term stable peace.

Even National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah did it in early December. And Mehbooba Mufti’s government did it in July.

The latest is the controversy over granting domicile certificates to those who are called ‘West Pakistan refugees’ in the state. These are the about 100,000 descendants of those who, during the murderous mayhem of the 1947 Partition violence, scrambled across the border from Pakistani Punjab into areas around Jammu.

Many of them are of Dalit background and have little political or economic clout. Ergo, they need positive discrimination from the state more than others.

The ‘West Pakistan refugees’ are distinct from those who fled that horrible year from Mirpur and Muzaffarabad areas on what are now Pakistan-controlled parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Large numbers of them and their descendants too live in Jammu – with all the rights of state subjects.

Several states, including Himachal, deny domicile rights to those who are not, or are not descended from, longtime residents. However, the denial of domicile rights — which basically boils down to access to state educational institutions, state government jobs and ownership of freehold property — to those who have been residents of the state for 70 years is clearly unjustified.

There can be no doubt that, owing to the special circumstances of their migration to the state, and the length of these families’ stay, they deserve the domicile status they were given a few days ago.

However, this is an inappropriate time to grant it. For, that grant has been resisted for decades by Kashmiri Muslims who fear that domicile status could be a first step towards their getting full citizenship of the state. That, they fear, could dilute their own demographic and political domination.

Explosive situation

I have pointed out before that the Kashmiri uprising of 2016 was different to the uprising of 2010 or 2008. One, Pakistan has been in far greater control this year than it was, particularly in 2008. Two, India does not face Pakistan alone on the battlefield that Kashmir has become. It is a Sino-Pak axis now. Three, the challenge may only have begun to emerge. Worse lies ahead than we experienced in 2016.

Of course, the BJP feels pressure to fulfill the poll promise it made to the refugees. Politically, it touches more than the 100,000 persons it directly affects, for the issue strikes a chord among many in the Jammu-Samba-Udhampur-Katra heartland of Hindu identity consciousness. So the BJP would fear an electoral backlash if its promise remains unfulfilled.

And yet, the dangers inherent in implementing this at this point are huge. Intelligence analysts may have advised that the beginning of the peak of an extraordinarily cold winter was the safest time to do it. Energy is low as people across the Valley try and cope with the cold and power outages.

Yet, anger over the issue has gathered steam. Hartals and stone-pelting demonstrations have begun again over the past few days. Independence leaders such as JKLF chief Yasin Malik and Bar Association president Abdul Qayoom have been given a fresh lease of popular support to demonstrate against the domicile status.

Once again, Pulwama has been a hub of unrest. The generally well-informed Ghulam Rasool Pandit had predicted to me that the unrest would revive again in 2017. “Why do you talk about summer?” he asked. “It could begin much sooner.” When I asked him about spring, he smiled laconically and asked why I did not consider January. Pandit is well connected on both sides of the conflict. His son, Naseer, became one of the best-known and popular militants of the area after he left the police to take up the gun. Naseer was killed last spring.

At that time, the police and government had made much of having demolished the insurgency with arrests and ‘kills’ of militants. A couple of months later, they seemed to be at the end of their tether in the face of mass rage.

The move to give West Pakistan Refugees domicile status may be entirely deserved on the face of it, but it stems from a similar sense of misplaced complacency. The nation may have to pay a huge price for such complacency and narrow political calculations.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 19:07 IST

Jammu and Kashmir: Yasin Malik detained ahead of protest march

Srinagar: JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was on Friday detained at Pulwama as he led his supporters to stage a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistani Refugees.

Separatist Yasin Malik. AFP

Separatist Yasin Malik. AFP

Malik was detained along with several of his supporters. They were taken into preventive custody, a police official said.

Separatists groups had called for protests on Friday against the government decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees living in the state since partition in 1947.

The state government has decided to issue identity cards to the refugees and had to issue clarification after protests from opposition parties and separatists against the move.

Initially, reports had said the opposition was against the government move to issue domicile certificates, but the state government said it was issuing identity certificates.

Other political organisations, including BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, have slammed separatists for opposing the issuance of certificates to the refugees.

The refugees, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary polls.

However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:50 IST

Kashmir: Separatists call for strike against ID cards for West Pakistan Refugees

Srinagar: Normal life was affected in Kashmir Valley on Friday due to a strike called by separatists against the issuance of identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs).

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Most of the shops, fuel stations and other business establishments in Srinagar — the summer capital of the state — were shut, while public transport was minimal, officials said.

They said there were very few street vendors visible in the city today due to the strike.

Reports of shutdown were also received from most of the other district headquarters of the Valley, the officials said.

Security forces were deployed in strength at sensitive places where barricades were also erected.

The separatists have also been calling for shutdown on Friday and Saturday every week after scaling down their agitation which followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahdeen militant Burhan Wani.

The more than five-month unrest in the Valley had left 86 people dead and thousands others, including 5,000 security personnel, injured.

The separatist groups — both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF — on Thursday appealed the people to observe a complete shutdown on Friday and Saturday over WPR issue.

They alleged that the decision on issuance of identity certificates to WPR was aimed at changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:56 IST

Jammu and Kashmir: Independent MLA Sheikh Rashid detained before protest march

Srinagar: Independent legislator Sheikh Abdul Rashid and his supporters were on Thursday detained as he tried to lead a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s move to grant domicile certificates to West Pakistan Refugees.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Rashid attempted to lead the march from Sher-i-Kashmir Park here to Lal Chowk against the government decision. But as the protesters reached the GPO Srinagar, police swung into action and detained the independent legislator from north Kashmir’s Langate constituency, along with his supporters, a spokesman of his Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) said.

Talking to reporters before being detained, Rashid said the government decision to grant domicile certificates to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) was “totally unacceptable to us”.

He alleged that the state government was behaving as a “proxy” and “extension” of the Union government in Delhi.

“Time has come for Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to break this alliance (with BJP) and go to people once again (to seek votes),” he said. Rashid vowed to sit on a day-long “hunger strike” in front of chief minister’s residence at Gupkar here to protest the government decision.

The WPRs, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 16:55 IST

Dozens of Afghans deported from Germany as Merkel takes firmer line | Reuters

By Mohammad Aziz and Madeline Chambers
| KABUL/BERLIN

KABUL/BERLIN A group of 34 rejected Afghan asylum-seekers arrived in Kabul from Germany on Thursday, the German interior ministry said, the first to be deported under an agreement reached between the two countries this year.Their expulsion is in line with a tougher approach from the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has faced domestic criticism for letting in more than a million migrants since the start of 2015. As she prepares to run for a fourth term next year, she is throwing out those who do not qualify as refugees.”It was early morning and I was sleeping when four policemen came to my home and arrested me,” said Ali Madad Nasiri, one of the men on board a charter plane that landed in the Afghan capital from Frankfurt.”I didn’t have a chance to take my clothes, cellphone and laptop – all left behind,” added Nasiri, who said he had been living in Germany for three years.Afghans made up a fifth of all migrants entering Europe last year, the second biggest share after Syrians. The deportations are taking place under an agreement reached between Germany and Afghanistan in October. Making clear that more would follow, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in Berlin that granting asylum to those who need it and ensuring that others leave are two sides of the same coin.Only people who can prove they are refugees fleeing persecution, war or violence are eligible for asylum.

“These deportations are right and necessary to keep the asylum system functional,” said de Maiziere.He added that one-third of those deported were criminals convicted of offences, from robbery and drugs crimes to rape and homicide. Of the 50 men due on the plane, 16 had disappeared.

“WHAT SHOULD I DO?”
In response to criticism that returnees may face reprisals in Afghanistan, de Maiziere said that while the security situation was “complicated”, there were large parts of the country that were safe. More than 3,200 Afghans had voluntarily left Germany this year, he added.The Afghan Ministry of Refugees will help returnees get back to their homes, a ministry spokesman said, adding that about 10,000 Afghans had returned from Europe this year.The mass influx of migrants and refugees to Germany has raised concerns about security and integration. The arrest this month of an Afghan refugee suspected of raping and murdering a student in the southern city of Freiburg has caused outrage.

Anti-immigrant groups such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have surged in popularity, while support for Merkel has waned.Afghanistan’s Western-backed government is battling militants who have stepped up attacks since the withdrawal of most foreign troops in 2014. Western military officials estimate the Taliban control or contest nearly a third of the country. Civilian casualties are near record high levels, with thousands killed and wounded every year. The government is also struggling to develop the economy.”Everyone loves his country. I also love my country but what should I do here?,” said Mati Ullah, 22, who said he had no job prospects in Afghanistan. “Do I have to go and join the Taliban or Daesh?” he asked, referring to Islamic State militants. (Writing by Randy Fabi, Michael Nienaber and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Trevelyan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 21:28 IST

Hypocrisy towards terrorism will not do: India at UNGA summit for refugees

United Nations: Describing terrorism as an “existential threat”, India has said that “hypocrisy” towards the menace is unacceptable and underlined that terrorism is the “principle cause” of the large-scale refugee movement.

“It is important to stress that today the geo-politics of the crisis points and proves that terrorism is the principle cause of refugee movements. Can we ignore this fact, we cannot. We do so at our peril,” Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said in his address to the UN General Assembly’s first-ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants at the United Nations on Monday.

Akbar asserted that terrorism is an “existential threat” and “hypocrisy towards this crisis will not do.”

He underscored that for the millions of people fleeing conflict, war and poverty, terrorism is not characterised as good or bad.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism and if you do not know the answer to this question, all you have to do is ask the refugee if he considers any terrorism to be good or bad,” Akbar said.

Stressing that terrorism is the “biggest danger” to human rights, Akbar said large movements of people across borders serve as a reminder that the world has become a global village.

“We can only prosper or perish together, it is best that we learn to live in peace, prosperity and amity,” he said.

Underlining that “prevention is better than cure”, Akbar said the international community has to address issues like terrorism, prevent armed conflict and facilitate development, which will help ensure people are not forced to flee their homeland.

“We have to find out what drives them towards seeking refuge. Prevention is better than cure. Perhaps prevention is the only cure,” he said adding that preventing armed conflict, countering terrorism, building and sustaining peace to facilitating sustainable development and governance will prevent people from being forced to leave their homeland.

Terming the present refugee crisis as “unprecedented”, Akbar said the number of people on the move globally is estimated at close to 250 million or one in every 30 persons and three-fourths of all refugees come from just 11 countries.

Akabar noted that it is disconcerting that just seven countries host more than half of all refugees and now almost 90 per cent of all refugees are hosted in developing nations. He said it is wrong to assume that host nations do not want refugees.

“It is assumed that only host nations do not want refugees. I ask do refugees also want to become refugees. They don’t,” he said.

He said the problem of the refugee crisis has been with the world for a very long time.

“Refugees are as old as war. The first consequence of war is death and the second is refugees. There is another kind of person seeking a new haven — the migrant driven by a second cruelty, hunger or economic aspiration, and both phenomenon are visible in the present crisis.”

Akbar referred to India’s “long history” of welcoming people seeking refuge from conflict, war, tyranny and poverty.

“India offers refuge not because it has a large bank balance but because it has a large heart,” he said.

He cited the tumultuous year of 1971 when Bangladesh was fighting for independence and more than a million people from the neighbouring nation took refuge in India to escape the “genocide” that they were facing at home.

“People seeking shelter in our country have never been turned back. Our record has been unique,” he said.

Akbar said nationalism is the “contemporary architecture” of stability and “we understand its importance.

“The intersection of human need in a refugee crisis and national imperatives make this a complex issue,” he added.

Akbar also recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s “seminal contribution” to abolishing indentured labour 100 years ago.

He said in more recent times, Indian migrants, including a cross section of professionals, skilled and less-skilled workers, have migrated to countries around the world and offered a “positive contribution to the diaspora”.

He voiced India’s commitment to working with all partners beginning next year in developing a global compact to ensuring a safe and orderly migration that is in the interest of all people.

Akbar also held meetings with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Bulgaria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Mitov and Guyana Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge on the sidelines of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly yesterday.

Sources told PTI that discussions during the meetings focussed on the issue of terrorism, refugees and migrants and the situation in the Middle East. The Ministers also discussed the need for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

“Discussions on bilateral issues on the sidelines of UNGA71 MOS MJ Akbar and FM of Iraq Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari,” India’s Permanent Mission to the UN tweeted.

Another tweet said Akbar “meets Foreign Minister of Bulgaria Daniel Mitov on the sidelines of #UNGA71.”