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Ban the word ‘refugee’ in Hry: Punjabis urge Khattar

September 25, 2018 06:06 AM


Ban the word ‘refugee’ in Hry: Punjabis urge Khattar


Almost three generations have passed since a large number of Punjabis left their homes in Pakistan during Partition and settled in Haryana. And yet, they are often referred to as ‘refugee’ or ‘sharnarthi’ by some locals. At least one prominent Punjabi organisation has now approached the Haryana government with a demand to ban both words.

Members of the Haryana Punjabi Swabhiman Sangh, headed by Hemant Bakshi, want the government to enact a law on the lines of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act with similar penalties for those who continue to call Punjabis refugees.

Most of the Punjabis came from Jhang and Multan districts of Pakistan. They settled in large numbers in Rohtak, Ambala, Hansi and Panipat.

“We are not refugees. Despite having given India patriots like Madan Lal Dhingra, Lala Lajpat Rai, we are seen as outsiders. We are not Pakistani nationals,” Bakshi told TOI on Monday. “After being displaced from Pakistan, we established ourselves in Haryana. We never begged to survive but life was a struggle in the initial years. We are asking for respect for our community. Those using these words for us should be punished.”

‘Pbis called refugees even today’

Shyam Mehta, another member of the sangh, criticized successive governments for “denying the rights of displaced”. “In 2011, the Haryana government surrendered nearly 80,000 acres of land to the Centre,” he says. “It was meant for displaced people. This was done by the previous Congress government. Unfortunately, even the present BJP government is not taking up the issue.”

Interestingly, Khattar is Haryana’s first CM who belongs to a Punjabi family.

Ravinder Rawal, chairman of Panchkula chapter of Haryana Punjabi Ekta Manch, too endorsed a demand for a new law. “This is not a demand. It is our right to have respect,” he says. “We will support this issue and join any front fighting for a new law.”

Didar Singh Nalvi, vicepresident of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Managing Committee (HSGMC), Adhoc, too has supported the sangh’s demand. “It is sad that some people call Punjabis refugees even today,” he says. “The practice must stop.”

Mehta says Punjabis have a dominating presence in about 25 assembly constituencies along the National Highway as well as NCR. “Despite this, we don’t have representation in power. Initially, we had 12 MLAs but our numbers shrunk after delimitation.”

Even INLD president Ashok Arora has supported the cause. “We have established ourselves in India after being forced to leave Pakistan and we did it without any government support,” he says. “We are very happy to be here, but the use of these words has to stop.”

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