Pakistani refugees in India granted land ownership rights after 70 years

Pakistani refugees in India granted land ownership rights after 70 years

BANGKOK – Refugees in India s western state of Maharashtra have been granted land ownership rights 70 years after fleeing what is now Pakistan, officials said.

The move is part of a wider push to give more rights to certain refugee groups in different parts of India.

About 3 million refugees from the Sindh and Punjab provinces in Pakistan are believed to have fled to India, as carnage between Hindus and Muslims sparked a massive migration across a border created as British colonial rule ended in 1947.

Refugees in Maharashtra were housed in about 30 government-owned "camps" or colonies across the state, with limited rights to sell or redevelop their homes.

The state government had granted ownership rights to refugees in some districts. Earlier this week, officials said all remaining refugees would get ownership rights, paving the way for the redevelopment of thousands of homes.

"Now they can sell, redevelop and mortgage the property in which they have been living for more than six decades," chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told reporters.

"Many of these properties are in a very poor state."

About 5,000 refugee families from Sindh and Punjab live in five colonies in Mumbai, which are all slated for redevelopment, he added.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out refugee rights and state responsibilities to protect them.

Nor does it have a domestic law to protect the more than 200,000 refugees it currently hosts, including Tibetans, Sri Lankans, Afghans, Bangladeshis and Rohingyas from Myanmar.

But in recent years, the government has been granting limited rights to some refugee groups. - Agencies