Intro: It seems that the arguments about rehabilitation of the community is aimed at gaining political mileage and denying the atrocities the Kashmiri Pandits faced in Kashmir.
It is tough to live a life of exile in one’s own homeland and the pain intensifies manifold when those with guns on their shoulders turn into messiah of peace and non violence overnight and those who have no stake turn into their sympathisers for the sake of publicity. Foot knows where the shoe pinches-one who has undergone the trauma of exile better understands his rehabilitation while others are just trying to make advantage out of their misery. This is not only opportunism but inhuman too. And so rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits is impossible without taking their point into consideration.
It was shocking to see Swami Agnivesh with Yasin Malik protesting against enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits. It looked as if Swami Agnivesh was boosting the morale of extremists. I failed to realise the cause of this friendship between one who wears saffron robes and one who had Kalashnikov on his shoulders to kill Kashmiri Pandits. I tried to convince myself with the newly found phrase that politics is the art of possibilities. It is clear that all the political outfits including extremists and many Agniveshes in various parts of the country have become one against enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits but they were nowhere near when these people were being compelled to leave their places thirty years ago. Ethnic cleansing of Kashmir did not involve them, so it seems for them Kashmiri Pandits are not human beings / the citizens of India. It is easy to deliver a sermon, but tough to practice it.
We may or may not get our place back but the world knows the dubious attitude of governments towards this peace loving and disciplined community with only crime of belonging to Hindu community. At the time of exodus from Bosnia the world got together but at the time of ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits the things were pushed under the carpet by one and all. At times, it seems that people were not only ignorant but they are being made to believe the concocted stories furnished by the vested interest people.
Those who talk of composite culture of Kashmir shall realise where Kashmiriyat had gone in 1990 when people were being killed to leave the state? When the advertisements threatening Kashmiri Pandits got published in local news papers and what was the reaction from press council of India against such newspapers? Where were Indian secularists then? Where were those who talk of human rights when people were being threatened to leave their homeland? The faith of Kashmiri Pandits is bound to shake for no FIR was even registered against those who killed people in broad daylight. Some tried to use Kashmiri Pandits as a political fodder to galvanize numbers in their own favor while as others simply sidelined them. This clearly exposes the stature of Indian politicians of all hues.
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Chief Minister of J&K initially agreed for enclaves for Pandits in Delhi but disagreed after reaching Srinagar sensing that the mood of all other parties was against the settlement. Government of India announces a job package, some money for reconstruction of houses and expects the community to fend for itself. If it would have been so easy then why in the first instance they would have left whatever little they had got? Money in no way can be more costly than one’s life. It should be realised by those in power that Kashmiri Pandits are well educated and know their rights and duties fully so to treat them as sacrificial goats is an attempt to create delusion in the mind of the general public. Before coming out with any such package, the present government should assess why people did not fully respond to a similar package announced by Dr Manmohan Singh Government? The ministry should also try to find out that those who had opted for such packages returned back without losing much time? The nature of this problem demands a deeper understanding of the things which UPA government failed to show.
Relying on promises made by the BJP, there are realistic expectations from Modi Government to provide justice to the Kashmiri Pandits, sooner than later. One of my friends questioned the chief election commissioner about the utility of voting as a Kashmiri migrant when the candidate is not interested in these voters as their number is too low. The election commissioner instead of answering the question gave a big lecture on Kashmiri Pandits. When nominated seats are provided to Anglo Indians why the same facility cannot be extended to Kashmiri Pandits. People expect results from BJP/PDP collation but its differing interpretation on various issues has only compounded the things. They need to be clear on Jammu representation, Kashmiri Pandits and rehabilitation, rehabilitation of refugees and treatment to militants. They may also have to go on course correction for rehabilitating the perception of People of J&K about its development agenda? Only forming a government is not enough, they will also have to deliver at the ground level for people who voted it to power.
Those who talk of sending Pandits back to their original places in the present atmosphere have dubious intentions. Can such political figures reside in those places without security and could the government protect its own panchayat members? Rehabilitation seems rhetoric as the property of Pandits has either been burned or demolished and some have even sold it out at the lowest possible cost for their living over the years.
It is common sense that no family can live in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits is thus possible only when peace prevails in the state and peace can prevail with the will of the government. Providing enough space to the militants to get together can in no way be termed as an attempt in the right direction. Thanking militants for their cooperation on the first day itself talks of seriousness of the PDP government. In alliance with PDP, BJP should in no way compromise with development agenda for which people voted them to power. Any such compromise can prove counterproductive for the alliance in the long run. BJP will have to have a strong resolve to fulfill the promise of resettling Kashmiri Pandits.
Instead of feeling agitated by separate enclaves, it would have been prudent on the part of majority community in Kashmir to help the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits by showing a big heart. They should have conceded for a separate homeland for them with a union territory status. It would have restored their confidence in the majority and the area could not have gone out of Kashmir by the inhabiting of Kashmiri Pandits. This could have given meaning to the words that Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits. The agitation for not allowing them to live in enclaves makes all such phrases superficial. The composite enclaves are no solution as one can never be sure about who his neighbour will be.
Prof MK Bhat (The writer is Deputy Director (MAIMS), GGSIP University Delhi)