Politicisation over return of Kashmiri Pandits
Views from Srinagar
SHUJAAT BUKHARI AST week, prominent Kashmiri journal ist and Group Editor of Hyderabad based ETV, Rajesh Raina posted a video on his Facebook account that went viral. The moving video showed an elderly Kashmiri Abdur Razak Wagey of Kokernag returning Rs 80 to Rajesh’s wife which he had borrowed from her father Som Nath Koul well before the latter’s migration in 1990. He saw the lady for the first time and made desperate attempts to make her accept the money. She broke down and refused. Razak also offered her to return to her native home along with the family saying “our doors are open for you”.
This was not merely an encounter of erstwhile neighbours but relayed a story full of emotions that perhaps was being overshadowed with the crafted discourse over the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Valley. The video was so popular attracting emotional comments that it had already crossed 2.5 lakh views.
Back in Srinagar, Delhi and Jammu, the issue about return of Kashmiri Pandits has again dominated the political discussions. During her reply to Governor’s address in the Assembly on May 28, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made a confident statement saying that she would bring
Lback Pandits while being in power. She also courted a controversy by citing the “pigeon and cat” analogy but was firm in saying that the situation for overall assimilation of KPs back in their old homes was not possible for now. In other words, she said there has to be separate accommodation for them and according to her “as soon as the situation improves they can go back to their homes”. Mehbooba did not use the word “composite townships”, but maintained that these would be transit accommodations.
However, the fact is that Government of India has repeatedly referred to this arrangement as “composite townships”. In all the replies in parliament and also in the communication to the state government it is about the land to be identified for the separate townships.
It all started on April 7, 2015 when Press Information Bureau, the agency responsible for handling central government’s media, quoted the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as assuring the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh that land will be identified for these composite townships. Though the state government clarified it, GoI continued with the same discourse. And in her reply in the assembly also, Mehbooba did not categorically deny the concept of “composite townships”. While the government has from time to time reiterated that these composite townships would not be confined to Kashmiri Pandits only, Panun Kashmir, the prominent body of KP’s, has outrightly rejected the theory of “co-existence” and called for separate homeland.
The composite township also does not figure in the “Agenda of Alliance” between the PDP and BJP, which Mehbooba repeatedly swore by during her speech. Look at what AoA says about return of KP’s— “Protecting and fostering ethnic and religious diversity by ensuring return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity based on their rights as state subjects and reintegrating as well as absorbing them in the Kashmiri milieu. Reintegration will be a process that will start within the state as well as the civil society by taking the community into confidence”. As far as the wording is concerned, it is straight and unambiguous. It does not talk about any township whether composite or separate. Surely a process has to be followed.
Even if it is only about transit accommodation and not composite townships, it has already led to divisions in the communities and the political parties across the state. Without really going into how KPs can return to valley, the issue is being used for settling political scores. Government may construct more transit accommodations but it has not really worked in the past. All the efforts to lure Kashmiri Pandits back with doles in the past did not work.
The previous government constructed safe colonies for them in places like Sheikhpora and Vessu and provided outof-turn jobs to more than 4,000 girls and boys, but it did not work the way it should have. Only last week, the government promised 4000 more jobs to them with an additional bonus of helping to create employment for 6000 more but will it make the difference. Many of those who got jobs in the past returned to Jammu and Delhi. Many Kashmiri Pandits are not ready to leave lucrative jobs within India and outside to return to Kashmir. Who will guarantee their security when the government stands even on Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which draws inspiration from the fact that the “situation is not conducive for that”?
While separatists have every right to articulate their viewpoint, they too have failed to contribute to any workable solution. How many times have they reached out to the community with a solution outside the government purview? By taking a particular stance, they are not helping build an understanding based on logic and practicality.
They are stakeholders in the process of resolution of Kashmir of which the issue of Kashmiri Pandits is a part, but the last 25 years have showed that they lack direction. The issue of return of Pandits has to be seen in the context of an approach to the larger political issue. At the time New Delhi does not care about what is happening on ground in Kashmir. Raising such issues in isolation has the potential to aggravate the situation.. —Courtesy: Rising Kashmir