Return of the community should restore the inclusive character of Kashmir
POINT OF VIEW
The question of a separate settlement for Kashmiri pandits has once again wound its way into the discourse in Valley. Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has warned that settling the migrant community into segregated colonies would create a potential Israel-Palestinian like situation in Valley. Geelani also talked of leading a mass resistance if the government initiates steps to execute such a plan. This is not the first time that the issue has run up against opposition in Valley. Nor is the separate homeland issue a new idea for some Kashmiri Pandit organizations.
The idea was also discussed at a recent Global Meet of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu. The meeting made a strong pitch for a “landing place” for the pandits in Valley. And to this end the community sought the establishment of “a wholesome Satellite City” in Valley to realize their dream of return to their motherland. The pandits want the city to be self-sufficient in terms of “overall infrastructure, economic avenues, adequate land, decent accommodation, educational institutions, medical care, recreation centers and commercial infrastructures”.
Geelani’s remarks expectedly drew sharp reactions from the Kashmiri Pandit organizations and the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah termed these as “imagination” and “fiction”. However, all this political storm has hardly helped explain the issue at stake. That is, the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Valley and the way to go about it. There is no room for any difference of opinion on the former. But the mode of the community’s rehabilitation has always polarized the opinion in Valley.
There are two options for pandits to return to Valley. One is to go back to their original places in Valley and live with their Muslim neighbours as was the case before the onset of militancy and the other is to live in segregated settlements with little social contact with the majority community. While, Muslims in Valley want the community to settle back in their old neighbourhoods, the opinion among Kashmiri Pandits favours a separate settlement in Valley. The idea has for long been championed by the hardline Panun Kashmir and now finds an echo among other pandit organizations.
However, the problem with the latter option is not only that it will be an unnatural arrangement, militating against the centuries old inclusive ethos of Kashmiriyat, but it will also seal a permanent divide between the two communities. This will create a psychological barrier between the two communities right in the midst of the valley with a perennial scope for mutual prejudice and suspicion.
However, the problem with the latter option is not only that it will be an unnatural arrangement, militating against the centuries old inclusive ethos of Kashmiriyat, but it will also seal a permanent divide between the two communities. This will create a psychological barrier between the two communities right in the midst of the valley with a perennial scope for mutual prejudice and suspicion. And however we may dismiss it as alarmist, such a settlement will stoke the already entrenched fear of an impending demographic change in Valley. It was this perception that more than anything else put Kashmir on boil over Amarnath land transfer through 2008.
The purpose of rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits should not be only about bringing the community back to Valley but the restoration of harmony between the communities. And that such a scenario is eminently possible is borne out by the hundreds of pandit families who didn’t migrate from Kashmir and continue to live with their neighbours in different parts of Valley. Creating safe zones for pandits will only be an exercise in evading rather than confronting the pandit problem. The challenge for the government is to not only continue to work for a return of Kashmiri pandits to Valley but in doing so seek to restore the inclusive character of Kashmiri society.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 10 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 11 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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