AZAD DESH KE GHULAM LOG| 18mins
Director: TANUJA SHANKAR | Producer: INDIA FOUNDATION
Focus Years: 2011 | Country: India
This film depicts the story of the migrant population, mainly from Sialkot in West Pakistan, who currently reside in Jammu in India. These refugees (80% of them Scheduled Caste Hindus) migrated during the partition from Sialkot to Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. Historically, Sialkot in West Pakistan and Gurdaspur in Indiaâ€™s Punjab State had very close cultural links. However, at the time of partition, this group chose to take refuge in Jammu as it was the closest town across the line of partition from Sialkot. On their arrival, they were met by Sheikh Abdullah, the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who implored them to stay back in Jammu and not go further to Punjab. He gave them refuge on the empty uncultivated lands on the Jammu border in what now seems like a deliberate move to use them as human buffers against Pakistan.
Today, 62 years since their arrival and three generations later, this population of about 250,000 to 300,000 Scheduled Caste refugees have been denied State Subject benefits of Jammu and Kashmir, as they are still not considered citizens of the state. They cannot own property, cannot get government jobs, and are denied employment in central services such as the Armed Forces. They cannot even vote in state legislature elections and cannot avail of other benefits that accrue to the citizens of the state.
These people who set out to make India their own home, today find themselves aliens in the country of their choice. In the most populous democracy in the world, they have become politically invisible.
Three generations of these refugees have been denied basic human rights. The refugees who settled in other parts of India received substantial rehabilitation packages and had opportunities to rise to power like Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India. However, these refugees, even today, continue to live like slaves in a free country.