March 2002 News

Controversy over Mangla Dam in PoK

12 March 2002
The Statesman
Kavita Suri

Jammu: The Pakistan governmentís decision to increase the height of the Mangla Dam at Mirpur in PoK has come in for sharp criticism from the Mirpuri community settled in Jammu and Kashmir. Thousands of families, who have migrated from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in 1947 and are presently living in Jammu and Kashmir and the adjoining states of northern India, have expressed serious concern over the decision of the Pakistani government to raise the height of the Mangla dam and has sought immediate intervention of the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, in the matter. Mr Rajiv Chunni, president, SOS, an NGO engaged in the welfare of PoK refugees, told The Statesman that with the increase in the height of the dam on Jhelum river in PoK, over 27,000 families will be affected. Most houses and the land belongs to refugees who escaped during the Partition riots. As they could not go back thereafter, these families will be deprived of the compensation for their lands and property with the rise of the damís height. The decision to increase the height has also been resented as the Mirpuri community feels that this will further worsen the living condition of the people. Mr HL Bhagotra, retired judge and the Mirpuri community leader who lives in Jammu, said the raising of the damís height will result in further environmental damage in the region. Besides, the community isnít likely to get any benefits. He added that the community registered its protest over the ineptitude of the Pakistani government in handling the issue. The Mangla dam was constructed amid protests in 1964, when a part of the Mirpur town was submerged. In the absence of flood control measures, the region has witnessed frequent devastation in the area. Many Mirpuris have since migrated to the UK. Demanding that the Government of India should pressure the Pakistani government not to raise the height of Mangla dam till the fate of PoK refugees and their properties is decided, Mr Chunni urged the Prime Minister to raise the issue with the Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, and arrive at a solution on humanitarian grounds. Lambasting the state government for its apathy towards PoK refugees, he said while the Jammu and Kashmir government has set up a different department as custodian-evacuee property to keep the record of the land and houses of Muslim families which migrated to Pakistan and is even trying to bring them back to the state and settle them with the help of the J&K Resettlement Act, there is no record of the Hindus who left their properties in PoK. The Jammu and Kashmir government never bothered to form such a department. He also alleged that thousands of such migrated families living in Jammu have even no voting rights. Besides, Mr Chunni also said that it has been established that refugees of Mirpur and Kotli (both with Pakistan) had deposited their money in the Jammu and Kashmir Bank branches there. The record was available in the Main head office of the bank. He said a large number of families escaped overnight during the raid and most could not carry even passbooks and other valuables. Some people who carried pass books after a long struggle managed to get the record traced in the bank which was set up in 1938, well before Partition.


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