In response to Riyaz Ahmad's Truth and Reconciliation
I commend Riyaz Ahmad for writing an honest and objective commentary about terms of endearment between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims in his thought provoking piece titled, “Truth and Reconciliation” (GK, May 25).
What I found missing was the potential role of the civil society in bridging the divide, which cannot be repaired by visits of a few notables to meet returning Pandits or attestation of goodwill by well meaning commentators. One needs to look beyond such superficial gestures in understanding what is truly holding back Pandits from returning to their homeland.
For 20 years, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has dumped the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the lap of the Central Government in New Delhi. While the State government is eager to own up to kith and kin of militants and those who crossed the border to receive training, it has yet to define a place for Pandit rehabilitation within the State Budget and priorities. The result is that the physical divide has been accentuated by an economic divide, leaving Pandits outside of State economy. The 3,000 or so jobs paid by a grant from the Central government is not a solution to what is essentially a State problem involving a State constituency. Indeed, the economic condition of Pandits who stayed in the valley and did not leave during the peak of militancy is not a reassuring picture and does not bode well for Pandits who would like to return from their self-exile.
Similarly, I have yet to see a single element of the civil society fret about diminishing political visibility of Pandits in the State. The election on a couple of non-political Pandit candidates in the Panchayat elections is a welcome news, but it can in no way replace a Pandit State cabinet minister, which the state did have until recently. Without political standing there is no future in a democratic institution. That is why such institutions are pluralistic and do not always represent the “tyranny of the majority.” If it were not so, India would not have a Sikh Prime Minister or a Christian as a leader of a major national party.
Besides seeking economic and political space, Kashmiri Pandits have a reason to demand security for their cultural space which is shrinking. I wonder why the civil society has never sought an explanation from the State Government regarding the Legislative Bill on reorganizing valley Hindu temples that was published in the State Gazette on 9th January 2008 (http://www.kashmirforum.org/images/3279_001.pdf), and then simply put away.
In the end, though, it is not Abdullahs, Mufts, Geelanis or Maliks who will decide whether Pandits have a future in the valley. Their likely return and sustainable survival in the valley will be decided by similar urges of “aam admi” on the street wishing for justice, dignity, jobs and good governance in the valley today. For too long, people in the valley have been told that such “favours” are inappropriate without a final political settlement of the State. Time is fast approaching when the public will see through such lies and demand a change. Someday there will be a “Kashmir Spring.”
What is good for Kashmir is good for its inhabitants, whether Muslims or Pandits.
Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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