Politi­ci­sa­tion over re­turn of Kash­miri Pan­dits

Views from Srinagar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR - Shu­jaat7867@gmail.com [Writer vet­eran jour­nal­ist/writer based in 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

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