NEW DELHI: With the West Pakistan refugees issue snowballing into a major controversy in Jammu and Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made it clear that it would continue to fight for the refugees. The party leaders said when Tibetans were not a problem for the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, how were West Pakistan refugees projected as a threat to the state’s demography.

Talking to The Citizen, senior BJP leaders said they wanted to ensure full voting rights and proper citizenship for the West Pakistan refugees on humanitarian grounds. They insisted that the move will not change Jammu and Kashmir’s demography as claimed by separatists and some mainstream parties.

The BJP also claimed to be certain that the issue would not generate tensions with the PDP and the NC insofar as government formation was concerned.

Senior BJP leader , Dr Nirmal Singh said the West Pakistan refugees have been living under miserable conditions since the past many decades and need to be rehabilitated.

“We have Tibetans living in Srinagar. They have been given voting rights by theNational Conference,” Singh said. “So I think on humanitarian grounds, the West Pakistan refugees must get their identity in the form of proper citizenship. Once they will have the citizenship, they would automatically be entitled to vote.”

Singh said the settlement of some 60,000 West Pakistan refugees who have been suffering on all fronts can in no way affect or change the demography of the State. “Some people are wrongly linking this issue with the demography of the state, which is not the case. The BJP’s policy is clear that these people must get their identity,” Singh said.

A senior BJP leader, wishing not to be named said that whenever the National Conference took some decisions like the settlement of Tibetans, they created an atmosphere that nobody should speak against the move. “They had their political interest as Tibetans comprised their vote bank. Now when we want to settle the people who have been moving pillar to post to get their identity crisis resolved, NC links the move with the demography of the State,” he said. “We wonder how the settlement of the ill-fated people would all of a sudden change the demography.”

BJP’s State Secretary, Ashok Koul said some people in the state are deliberately making the settlement of West Pakistan refugees a political issue to suit their political interests. “This has nothing to do with demography of the State. “Some parties have been advocating that people of Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) should be allowed to travel to this side on Visas. If that is not going to change the demography, how come settlement of some 60,000 people who have been suffering since past several decades, affect the State’s demography,” Koul said without naming PDP, NC or any separatist group.

Asked whether the issue of settlement of West Pakistan refugees would snowball into a controversy and become another hurdle in the government formation in JK, Koul, who is also BJP’s Core group member, said they were ready to discuss the issue with both the regional parties—PDP and NC.

“Our Central leadership is talking to both the parties---NC and PDP on government formation. We will definitely discuss the issue with them before finalizing ties. I don’t think this should be an issue as far as making a government in JK is concerned,” Koul said.

Pertinently, both the factions of Hurriyat Conference, JKLF and even mainstream parties like NC, have termed the settlement of West Pakistan refugees a move aimed at changing JK’s demography.