Jammu migrants: A neglected second cousin?

Abdul Aziz Khan, 49, and Shanker Dass, 53, are facing stepmotherly treatment by the state and central governments in contrast to their counterparts from the Kashmir Valley.

Jammu: Abdul Aziz Khan, 49, and Shanker Dass, 53, have more than one thing in common. As victims of militancy in the Jammu region, they migrated to this city for safety but allege they are facing stepmotherly treatment by the state and central governments in contrast to their counterparts from the Kashmir Valley.

The migrants from Doda, Poonch, Rajouri and upper reaches of Udhampur and Ramban districts - which constitute the Jammu region -have been forever holding demonstrations, seeking the attention of the central and state governments, demanding relief and rehabilitation at par with those for migrants from the valley. But their demands have been ignored, they say.

"It`s strange. All of us were facing similar situations; we were being targeted by militants, we were forced to leave our homes...But still we are not being treated at par with migrants from the valley," Abdul Aziz Khan, a migrant from the border district of Rajouri, said.

The nearly 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus who fled the valley and settled in Jammu and some other parts of the country, get monthly cash relief of Rs.5,000 per family in addition to health insurance and reservation in jobs.

Some 6,000 jobs were reserved for them in the valley, and a new satellite township with 4,218 flats, hospitals, schools, parks and other facilities, was set up for them earlier this month.

Shankar, who migrated from the Bhaderwah area in Doda district, asks why "there`s no such facility for us".

There are nearly 5,000 such families, which migrated from the hills of Jammu and are seeking relief and rehabilitation at par with Kashmiri migrants.

They are living in tent houses under abject poverty on the borders of Jammu city.

Their children attend makeshift schools which are only up to Class 8. After that, the poor parents are left with no other choice but to look for schools outside - and considering they make a living by working as labourers and domestic help, it`s no small feat.

The state of sanitation is no better. There are a few community toilets, but most of the time these migrants have no choice but to defecate in the open.

"We do not have as much political backing as Kashmiri Pandits. That is why no one pays heed to our genuine grievances. Our miseries are piling by the day. We are shocked at the silence of the human rights groups," lamented Mohi-ud-din Beig, chairman of the Doda Migrants Committee.

Their camp is on the banks of Tawi river. Being a stony area, these migrants are subjected to extreme weather conditions.

Som Nath, a migrant from Rajouri district, says: "The migrants from the hilly areas of the Jammu region include both Hindus and Muslims who are suffering due to the government`s stepmotherly treatment despite courts` direction in our favour."

Earlier, the political groups were shy of pointing out this "discrimination" for they did not want to be seen as undermining the plight of Kashmiri Hindus who had to flee the valley after a spate of select killings in the 1990s.

But now, political groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has been the champion of Kashmiri migrants for long, have started articulating the grievances of the Jammu migrants.

However, it`s Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party that has taken up the cause in a big way.

The Panthers Party`s three-time legislator and leader of the legislature party, Harshdev Singh, recently asked the big question in the assembly: "Why was there discrimination with Jammu migrants?"

"We want relief for Kashmiri migrants, but the government should extend similar relief to Jammu migrants," he said.

The underlying feeling is that the way the government has adopted the "discriminatory policy" towards the Jammu migrants results in "heartburn" and creates "bad blood".

BJP Legislature Party leader Chaman Lal Gupta too wanted a "fair deal for Jammu migrants".

State Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Raman Bhalla said the "issue is being examined and the matter is being taken up with the central government".

IANS

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