“We, the Kashmiri Pandit community have full faith in the Central government’s motto of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas. Our beleaguered community, which is the first victim of terrorism in Kashmir for being patriotic, has been suffering for the past three decades in exile. We always believed that we would be helped by the government. Many promises have been made to us in all these 31 years, but the community has not seen a concrete policy that talks about our economic upliftment, educational and constitutional guarantees and our return to the valley. GOI (Government of India) has not done anything for our physical & economic rehabilitation, relief and welfare till date . We feel that we have been betrayed. Our constitutional and fundamental rights have not been protected”. This is the opening paragraph of a press release issued by Satish Mahaldar, Chairman, Reconciliation, Return & Rehabilitations of Kashmiri Pandit Migrants (RRRKPM).
According to sociologist Farrukh Faheem, Sheikh Abdullah agreeing under the 1975 accord to integrate Jammu & Kashmir into India, was met with hostility among people of Kashmir and laid the groundwork for the future insurgency. Those opposing this integration included Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, People’s League and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) based in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It is since then that communalist rhetoric began to be exploited in the state for votebank politics. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to spread Wahhabism in place of Sufism to foster religious unity with Pakistan, the communalisation helped in furthering it. Sheikh Abdullah’s government gave further fillip to Islamisation by renaming about 2,500-from their ages old Hindu names to new Islamic ones. He also started delivering communal speeches in mosques similar to his speeches in 1930s. Additionally, he referred to the Kashmiri Hindus as “mukhbir” or informers of the Indian government.
JKLF militant Maqbool Bhat’s execution in February 1984, provided ISI with the first handle. Strikes and protests were organised in the region, with a large number of Kashmiri youth participating in widespread anti-India demonstrations.
The second handle and a deadlier one was provided by the greed of Congress for votes which led to massively rigged elections in 1987. Thereafter, the situation in Kashmir Valley was allowed to greatly deteriorate resulting in many Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus being killed and 19 January 1990 became known as the tragic “exodus day”, when they were forced to flee as a result of being targeted by JKLF and Islamist terrorists in late 1989-early 1990. Threats to Kashmiri Pandit/Hindu specified that males should leave but without their women. Up to possibly 3,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus were killed and fled from the Valley. In 2016 there were reportedly only 2,000–3,000 remaining in the Valley. According to the Indian government, more than 62,000 families are registered as Kashmiri refugees including some Sikh and Muslim families. Most families were resettled in Jammu, National Capital Region surrounding Delhi and other neighbouring states.
In some discussions this author had with Lt Gen S.K. Sinha (retd), former Governor J&K he conveyed how the PDP government dragged its feet in implementing housing projects for Kashmiri Pandit refugees in Jammu even as late as over a decade and were not happy at all with him for pursuing this matter.
What emerged from this author’s conversation with Mr. Mahaldar was that (a) his group comprises of 419 families, (b) he, with his delegation of 6 to 7 colleagues has met top level BJP and Kashmiri political and separatist leaders and that the only objection they had was that Kashmiri Pandits must not be resettled in the Valley in clusters/ghettos, (c) according to GoI, the call for Kashmiri Pandits to come back to Kashmir did not get much response as they are apprehensive about their security in the Valley.
0n 14 June 2019 the 419 families still wanting to go back to the Valley had been promised land and house in Kashmir as part of the Return and Rehabilitation process, but nothing has been done about it till date.
Mr. Mahaldar laments that in six years of the Modi-led government at the Centre, no proposal has been made by the Government for the return and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. “We feel betrayed. Non resident’s had been rehabilitated within J&K whereas original aborigines are still homeless even after 31 years. We Urge the GoI to immediately allocate Rs three lakh crore (3,00,000×100,00,000) budget towards the physical & economic rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandit Migrants in the current financial year with special provision that includes the cost of minimum one kanal (505.8 square metres) land and towards construction of a four-bedroom house to each Kashmiri Pandit Migrant family”, states the press release. GoI should immediately notify the land towards the physical rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits across the 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiri Pandit Migrants should be rehabilitated as per their parliamentary constituencies specified on their Migrants Cards. GoI should also immediately sanction minimum 300 acres of land which should be allocated/reserved for Kashmiri Pandit Migrants who want to set up industry in Kashmir at a nominal cost. The Kashmir Pandit professionals / entrepreneurs are very keen to invest in Tourism, Hospitality, Agriculture, Education, Medicinal Plants, Health and Pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing, IT & ITES, Renewable Energy & other sectors.
“We urge GOI to set up an SIT team to probe into the killings of innocent Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley since 1989 onwards and also probe who were responsible for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits . The SIT should be headed by a retired Supreme court Judge”, the release states.
For the protection of the art and culture of the Kashmiri Pandits, they want one exclusive building along with an amphitheatre in which their art, culture and literature can be displayed. The exile from Kashmir is threatening the traditions, culture, old scriptures/literature, and heritage.
They also urge GoI to sanction 30 acres of land towards setting up of the Sharda University in Kashmir. Sharda University once was regarded as the pride of Kashmir ( Asia ) in teaching Vedic literature of Hinduism, Ayush and spirituality. They also request the GoI to sanction Rs 100 crores towards setting up the university in Kashmir, which would help revive the ancient heritage of the entire Asia and J&K state.
“Over the decades, our constitutional, democratic and fundamental rights have not been protected, being a minority in Kashmir Valley. Supreme courts Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).489/2016 dated March 12, 2018 in which honorable Supreme Court directed the Union of India and the State of Jammu and Kashmir to set up the State Minority Commission. Till date the order has not been implemented .We seek minority status for Kashmiri Pandits with minimum 10 % reservation within the state of Jammu & Kashmir. We also seek reservation in the Legislative Assembly. Seats should be reserved for Kashmiri Pandits in the Assembly”.
They urge GOI that in 2021, census be considered before proceeding for the delimitation process as they all are aware that most of the names of most of the Kashmiri Pandits have been illegally deleted from the electoral rolls of Kashmir. They have reminded that their democratic rights have been ignored and they request GoI that all migrants’ names should be enrolled in the electoral list of Kashmir as per their rehabilitation policies within the parliamentary constituencies.
The press release ends stating, “Our hopes are high and we have faith in our dynamic Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji & His Council of Ministers. Lord Rama’s exile ended. After 31 years, when will Kashmiri Pandits’ exile end?”
This appeal from the disinherited Kashmiri Pandits coming a year after the abrogation of Article 370 is no doubt valid and must be addressed and implemented. None of J&K’s political parties/chief ministers ever did enough for the Kashmiri Pandits but both they and separatist leaders often shed crocodile tears for them.
One of independent India’s ironies is that its actual history is still not part of the education syllabus because of a deliberate attempt by its rulers for seven decades at least. Kashmiri Pandits, also originally known as Saraswat Brahmins were inhabitants of Kashmir till the Mughal invasion. In the 16th Century when Akbar annexed Kashmir, those not wanting to convert to Islam and determined to survive, fled the Valley. That was the first exodus.
To implement any number of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus / Sikh/some Muslim migrants to be resettled meaningfully in the Valley, there may need of a booster doze for political will. And if and when it is decided upon, it will require time and more important, steadfast and consistent pursual of the projects involved.
While the abrogation of Article 370 along with arrests of political and separatists leaders certainly disabled the separatists network of supporting terror and radicalisation, Pak army and ISI have desperately continued their efforts to induct terrorists, who are trying to target sarpanches and security forces, but their shelf life has greatly reduced. As and when Kashmiri Pandits settle in the Valley, they will be targeted by whatever amount of terrorists are there and by those who succeed in crossing over. ISI is also desperately trying to resurrect the terror supporting network in the Valley. Hence no efforts should be spared in making the Valley safe for not only peace but a lot of progress that is being planned.
The writer is editor WordSword Features. He is also a strategic analyst and former spokesperson, Defence Ministry and Indian Army, and can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.