J&K admin offers domicile to Kashmiri Pandits, but only a few turn up

At a recent camp held by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) in Delhi, of the 25,000-odd unregistered Kashmiri Pandit families who had migrated to Delhi in the 1980s, only 3,000 took the application form. Around 806 of them were registered and given domicile certificates

The offer of the Jammu and Kashmir’s administration to provide domicile certificates to families who were displaced or migrated from the erstwhile state in 1980s, has received an unusually lukewarm response.

While the office of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) at Jammu – with whom the domicile certificate applicants are supposed to register – recently held a camp in Delhi to accept applications from places which have a minimum of 50 such displaced families, the response wasn’t too exactly overwhelming, reported Indian Express.

According to the report, of the 25,000-odd unregistered Kashmiri Pandit families who were said to have made Delhi their home before 1989, only 3,000 took the application form. Around 806 of them were registered and given domicile certificates on the spot, the report said.

The report quoting Relief Commissioner (Migrants) Ashok Pandita said the application and identity records of the rest of the 2,200 families were being brought to Jammu for further action.

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Similarly, only 100 of 3,300 the former families of Jammu and Kashmir who had to leave the then state after Pakistan occupied certain parts of the valley in 1947, have applied for domicile certificates.

The erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir saw a massive exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs during the onset of Islamic militancy in the valley in the 1980s. The administration has now extended domicile certificates to such families who or whose ancestors had to leave the valley during the conflict. These certificates would help communities like the Kashmiri Pandits not only own land, but find jobs and educational opportunities in the new Union territory.

The IE report says that while over 45,000 Kashmiri Pandits who left the valley due to militancy have been registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants), records of an equal number of residents who migrated earlier are missing.

According to the report, 41,119 Hindu and Sikh families were also believed to have left Jammu and Kashmir after the Pakistan occupation of parts of the valley. Of these migrants, 31,619 including 5,300 who have moved to other states, are registered with the Provincial Rehabilitation Officer cum Custodian of Evacuee Department. Of the 31,619, 26,319 families are considered permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

The report quoting officials said around 9,500 families in the 1950s were denied registration by the then government under several reasons – they either did not stay in refugee camps set up by the government, did not shift to the Indian side between 1947 and 1954; came to the Indian side, but without the head of the family or the annual income of the head of the family was more than ₹300 during that time.

While around 50,000 of such displaced families are living elsewhere and may not want to return, the administration has said that it respects their decision and just wants them to get registered for “domicile” purposes.

To give more time to former residents the administration has extended the deadline for applications to May 15, 2022.

“No further extension will be granted,” an order by the Department of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction said.

Relief Commissioner Pandita also pointed to another problem which lay with the registration of former residents who are now living in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK). He says the registration portal doesn’t recognize their place of residence as they are from Pakistan districts like Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, Rawalkot, Muzaffarabad etc and that it isn’t just a software issue and needs to be looked into by the Home Ministry.