New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel has expressed serious concern over the restricted voting rights of west Pakistani refugees and observed that they must have the right to elect and get elected in all representative bodies to enhance the strength of democracy.
The Parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs also recommended that the Ministry may pursue with J&K government to examine the issue of reservation of seats in the Assembly and Legislative Council for west Pakistani refugees (WPRs) and if necessary may move for amendment in the state's constitution.
"The Committee expresses its serious concern that the WPRs, who are very much citizens of India and eligible for voting in Parliamentary elections, do not posses right to vote in the state Assembly elections on the pretext that they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of J&K constitution," the panel's report tabled today said.
The Committee feels that though WPRs have been living in the state for over 60 years, they are not leading the life of free citizens despite having voting rights for Parliament and this right has not earned them any special benefits.
"The Committee is of the considered view that citizens of India must have the right to elect and get elected in all representative bodies to enhance the strength of democracy. WPRs should get permanent resident status sooner for fostering complete faith in democracy".
Around 5,764 families consisting of 47,215 persons migrated from West Pakistan and got settled in different areas of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of J&K constitution.