Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is facing intense pressure from his coalition partner, the Congress over granting Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCS) to refugees from “West Pakistan” residing in Jammu.

Congress leaders from the state have conveyed to the party high command that these refugees, if granted resident certificates, could be a huge vote bank for the Congress.

National Conference and Congress leaders started a war of words in local newspapers over this issue. NC ministers have said that they will never allow special status of J&K state to be diluted. While, two Congress ministers from Jammu have said that they will bring an amendment in the upcoming Assembly session for granting permanent resident certificates to the refugees who arrived from the then West Pakistan decades ago.

A senior Congress leader told this newspaper that they have made it clear to Omar Abdullah that it’s time to give resident status to these refugees. When asked about this, National Conference minister Ali Mohammed Sagar told this newspaper that they would not compromise on this issue with the Congress: “They are not residents of J&K. They can never get permanent certificates.”

J&K Pradesh Congress Committee president Saifuddin Soz expressed hope that the issue would be resolved as it was a human problem. “We have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and entire National Conference leadership. I will take up the issue in the next coalition coordination committee meeting,” Soz told this newspaper. Separatists have threatened to start an agitation if any move is made to made to give permanent resident status to the refugees.

They have described this as the Central government’s plan to change the demography of the state. National Conference circles have started playing the Tibetan refugee card. Most of them are Muslims of Kashmiri origin who came to Kashmir when China annexed Tibet. Although they live in Kashmir, they don’t have permanent resident certificates so far.

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