Congress-led government called us migrants. They say we migrated voluntarily. That narrative suits their pseudo-secularist ideology. After all Kashmir Valley majority population is their vote bank not the minuscule Pandit minority, particularly when in such a wide dispersal. We protested we were not migrants by any stretch of imagination. A migrant is one who leaves his home out of freewill and returns to it out of free will. The element of fear, extirpation and ethnic cleansing obtains nowhere in the syndrome of migration. We approached the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to call us by our proper nomenclature of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) having suffered ethnic cleansing. He did not oblige. We are told that there is a case of nepotism against him. Our demand of giving the nomenclature of IDPs drew inspiration from the Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations. India is a signatory to the Charter. It makes a big difference if we are formally recognised by the Government of our country as IDPs. Firstly we would be entitled to same facilities and conveniences as are allowed to the refugees under the UN Human Rights Charter. Secondly, we would be entitled to seek asylum in a foreign country especially the United States where there is constitutional provision to give asylum to the IDPs from a “disputed territory” as the US calls Kashmir. Thirdly, and most importantly, we would be entitled to return and restitute in our homeland at a concentrated place of our choice. And lastly, we would not be left to the treacherous machinations of the State government to let our properties be vandalised and our long range interests sabotaged. This has happened because of a nexus between the State government and the UPA government in the centre. A glaring example of this nexus is the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh’s) so-called Pandit Return and Rehabilitation Package of 2008.
A Nexus between the previous State and Centre Government led by UPA leads to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits are not migrants, they did not migrated voluntarily. A migrant is one who leaves his home out of freewill and returns to it out of free will.
Nothing could be more charlatanic. JK Nationalist Movement issued a “critique” of this package within days of its announcement bringing out the calumny of giving the ethnically cleansed community of 4 lakh people entitlement to only one-fifth of the total package of 1618 crore rupees. The other four stakeholders are those who provided shelter, safe havens, guidance and logistical support to the terrorists in Kashmir.
Throughout the twenty-five years of our exile, the rhetoric like “Pandits are integral to Kashmir society”, “Without Pandits Kashmir is incomplete”. “Pandits will return with dignity and honour” and “Pandits are part of Kashmiriyat” etc. has never ceased to be orchestrated by pseudo-secularists. In practice not even the minutest step was taken to translate this rhetoric into practice. The glaring example of underlying vicious designs against the Pandits is how the Shrines and Temples Bill was scuttled.
NC and Congress both did their best to create a wedge within the displaced community. Divide and rule is the philosophy borrowed from the British colonisers and religiously implemented by these political parties. A handful of self-seeking Pandit urchins picked up by the NC henchman in the Legislative Assembly were enlisted on the Committee for implementation of Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) fractured package. The result is that out of 6,000 posts sanctioned in the package for the Pandits in state government only 1400 have been filled during a period of seven years. As against this, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was the Chief Minister of the State for three years during the PDP Congress coalition, stated publicly that he had recruited 3.5 lac youth of Kashmir and Chenab valley in government service during his tenure.
Hindsight shows that the UPA government very carefully avoided any debate on the IDPs from Kashmir at any forum including the UN in Geneva where the Pandit delegates had, independently, essayed for long and got included their community as “Reverse Minority” in UN Working Group on Minority documents.
It has to be noted that the main argument advanced by Sheikh Abdullah for inclusion of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution was that Kashmir was a Muslim minority state and its interests had to be protected in the Indian Union which was a Hindu majority country. But it should spring surprise to every observer that the J&K Constitution framed during the rule of the Sheikh does not recognise any community in J&K as “minority”. Actually the word “minority” does not occur even once in the entire Constitution that fills about 300 pages including appendices etc. This clearly explains the double standards used by Kashmir leadership in regard to the application of minority status. This was followed by passing the No Delimitation of Constituencies Act which is to remain in force up to 2026. As against this, the new electoral constituency of Zanskar was created only recently keeping in mind its Muslim majority character.
Throughout the twenty-five years in exile, the rhetoric like “Pandits are integral to Kashmir society”, “Without Pandits Kashmir is incomplete”. “Pandits will return with dignity and honour” and “Pandits are part of Kashmiriyat” etc has never ceased to be orchestrated by pseudo-secularists.
Return and rehabilitation has been made a complicated issue purposefully. The UPA government abhorred return of the Pandits to Kashmir in any form or under any formula.
Therefore if the central government is not clear about what its policy of return and rehabilitation of the IDPs of Kashmir is, and if the state government is loath to make even the smallest commitment for their return and restitution, then to speak of their return is to put the cart before the horse. All that they should learn is that secularism in this country is the biggest lie to mislead and misdirect the people. Lastly, a word to the Pandits. Friends, nobody has done us any favour. We are a people lost in our own country and castigated by our own people.
Wise people do not give in to vicissitudes and vagaries of history. Today about seven or eight thousand of our community families are settled in the US after our exodus. History tells us that Diasporas have made great civilisations. Look at Parsees, Jews, Sikhs and others. Let us look beyond lands and climes. Let us unfold our wings and fly the vast expanse of the globe.
Nothing is closed upon us nothing can remain closed upon us. Knock and the door will open.
-Dr KN Pandita, (The writer is the former Director, Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University)