Amid severe protests in Jammu & Kashmir over settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, there have been a slew of measures initiated by the Centre to ensure ‘dignified and secured’ return of the displaced community to their place of origin. But what one needs to understand is the fact that these people are wary of continuous assurances and promises which have been repeatedly
broken. This time around, the displaced Kashmiri Pandits wish to return to the Valley and settle in their homeland, without any prejudices and insecurities.
Separatist leader Yasin Malik protested against the proposed rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. The former JKLF leader had said he was not opposed to the return of Pandits to Kashmir, but they should not be ghettoised, calling them “townships of hatred”.
“The land belongs to them. But if you want that they should not live together, then you are creating walls of hatred. In Palestine, the Jews and Muslims are killing each other. We want them to live the way the other Kashmiri Pandit brothers and sisters are living,” Malik told the media
during his protest.
“It was resolved that the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in separate colonies and ghettos in Kashmir is unacceptable to all Kashmiri Muslims, Pandits, Sikhs and Christians as it will create walls of hatred among the communities here and will erode the age old trust between the communities,” a JKLF spokesman said after Malik broke the protest fast.
The spokesman said the resolution was passed at the end of a day-long seminar organised by the JKLF on the issue of return to Kashmiri Pandits to separate colonies in Kashmir.
He said it was resolved unanimously that Kashmiri Pandits, who got dislocated in 1990, should return to their homes and hearths in Kashmir. “They will be welcomed to restore the proverbial ethos of Kashmir represented by amity, harmony and brotherhood among the various communities,” he added.
“At the time of exodus, we had to sell our property at throwaway prices. Majority of us don’t own any property and don’t even have enough resources to buy our properties back. A composite township can provide us with a safe and secure environment to live in,” Rahul Mahanoori’, a Kashmiri Pandits who resides in Delhi for last 26 years.
He further said there is trust deficit between the communities in Kashmir. “We were forced to leave our home due to Yasin Malik and other separatists who brought their so called jihad to our doorstep, now they are acting like saints and talking about the spirit of Kashmiriat, humanity and coexistence. Our nightmare is not over here the present state government head is having the sympathy for the terrorists and is trying hard to bring them from across the border, but ignoring the safe return of Pandits.
Alliance partners PDP-BJP recently spoke in different voices on composite townships for settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley with state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed saying no separate clusters will be built for the displaced community while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh made it clear that there was no change in Centre’s view on it.
Mahanoori expressed strong resentment over the “undue politics” being played over the rehabilitation issue and said that the situation was not conducive for their return to the native places.
The Kashmiri pandits, who were exodus amounted to genocide seven time over 1,000 years, are determined to go back in Kashmir permanently, but disappointed with the governments specially the PDP led government in the state who has not seen the spine to counter the separatists.
Kashmiri Pandits are expecting a concrete road map charting their return and rehabilitation in
Kashmir valley, which they had to leave behind after the rise of militancy in the late 1980s. On 19 January 2015, members of this much-persecuted community completed 26 years of their exile and being homeless, forced to live like refugees within their own country. The Pandits have been trying to seek answers about the exodus, the killings, the human rights violations, the injustice and the prospect of return to their ancestral home in the valley by their own terms.
Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits were killed by terrorists in 1989 and afterwards until they left the valley. Though the official figure of killed Kashmiri Pandits stands at 219, Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, a valley-based organisation, suggests at least 399 Pandits were killed and the list is still incomplete. Such selective killing of minority Hindus of Kashmir amounts to genocide, according to some commentators, but governments, union and state, have been reluctant to label it thus.
When asked what Pandits are expecting from Modi government which is going to complete one year next month, Sandip Kaul, a Kashmir Pandit in Gurgaon said, ‘we don’t need any reservation or any special treatment, we just want that this government should remove Article 370 and safety and security for us, that would be sufficient for us. We are capable enough to make our own destiny. Despite having all the problems we have faced for last 26 years, majority of the Kashmiri Pandits are doing well in their respective fields. We are dedicated and educated as well which makes a difference. We don’t believe to project ourself as victim,’ said Kaul.
“We don’t want any politics into this matter, hope Modi government will make a difference, earlier governments failed to solve out this problem. Eight prime ministers have changed since 1989, but our situation remained the same. There should not be any appeasement policy, we all are Indians. I believe to make Kashmir an integral part of India, Article 370 must be removed from Kashmir, which will automatically change the equation in favour of India. There are number of pro-Pakistani elements exits in Kashmir which needs to be countered by this new government.
‘I had five storied house which had 15 room in ‘Safa Kadal’ area and two shops in the Kashmir Valley, but soon after the rise of militancy I had to sale it and ran away from their to save the my family lives. Life was miserable for us there at that point of time. Forget about India, even if the any cricket or hockey match between Pakistan or Australia was going on and Pakistan lost the match, then the first target of stone pelting was the houses of Kashmir pundits. We were left on the mercy of the militants at that point of time. It was the then governor of Jammu and Kashmir (1984–89) Jagmohan who was our saviour in 1990 and provided us the safe passages to our community from the militants’, said Harkishan Dhar, a Kashmiri Pandit who settled in Delhi.
We want Modi government to not to believe PDP and come up with the some concretive action for the settlement of Kashmiri pundits. I firmly believe composite townships for settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley will work to save our haritiage in Kashmir and government should move ahead in this project, said Mahanoori’.
Summing up the prevailing situation of no go recently at a discussion, academician Amitabh Mattoo says, “Let me begin by saying that the tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits, and I call it internal displacement because no one leaves out of their free will or migrates on a seasonal pattern, is a tragedy, not just for the community but for whole of Kashmir, because what was lost was a syncretic culture. And I think the return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity and honour will be an important marker for sustainable peace in J&K.”
“I believe the idea of the return of Kashmiri Pandits has indeed come. And I say this because of what has been happening. For the first time you have had a debate, you’ve had a discussion, you’ve had engagement, you’ve had political parties actually talk about the return of the Pandits and let’s not forget, there is no one, no one across the political spectrum in Jammu and Kashmir, from the militants to the separatists, who have not said, even if it’s just for sounding reasonable, that they don’t want the Kashmiri Pandits to return with dignity and honour,” he adds.