Return of KPs
There is no need to politicize the Pandit issue
P. N. RAZDAN
Kashmiri Pandits return to the valley has assumed topical interest lately. The debate was spawned by the comments of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the venerated senior leader of the valley. His interpretation of separate colonies for returning Kashmiri Pandits as potential pockets for RSS members to change the demographic composition of the valley, is not only far-fetched but unlike Geelani whose words are always well thought, measured and pointed. Such an idea is unthinkable in a media loving democracy like India where any slight incident in Kashmir is reported as a ‘Breaking News’ in the national electronic media. Any such attempt in the past too has had wide protestations in all the three regions of Kashmir where all state subjects irrespective of religious and caste affiliations are out to protect their special identity. What prompted Syed Geelani to unleash a debate on a sensitive issue of Pandits’ return is therefore not clear at this stage.
As for separatists’ view on the subject of Pandits’ return, their response has always been conditional. At one time conditions were laid down for their return which required them to commit to a disputed nature of Kashmir and also support the azadi movement. With the fading power of the insurgency, these conditions were slowly whittled down and nobody presently talks of Pandits participation in the local movement. As for Mr. Geelani himself, his stand too has wavered with time. In the initial days when the militancy euphoria was high, he even questioned the relevance of secularism in Kashmir, a stand true to his life-long adherence to the philosophy of Jamat-e-Islami. But as years passed by his feelings for Pandits assumed a more humane stance and he started talking of their importance to the ethos of Kashmir. We should however not forget that this change was largely due to the consistent rejection of the extremist social order by the majority of Muslim population in Kashmir. This has lately been demonstrated by them against the attack on Peer Dastgir Sahib, a symbol of Kashmir’s sufi culture.
Why are the specifics of settling down Kashmir Pandits a subject matter of such a huge debate? It is commonly known that around 80 percent of Pandits have sold their properties out of their choice or distress. Around 23,000 structures and 10,000 acres of agricultural land and orchards are reported to have been left by the Pandits at the time of migration. Barring a thousand houses still occupied by the resident Pandits and another thousand houses under the occupation of the para-military, all the remaining structures are no longer available. Pandits, therefore, do not have a foothold in the valley either of their own or their relatives to start a new life after their return. In these circumstances if the government is trying to create suitable conditions for their return, it is only doing its duty in an honest and sincere way. It is natural that Pandits would always try to upgrade their homes once they get some stability in their new place of residence and move to independent accommodations like they used to have before their migration. For several years now we have flatted colonies for Pandits at Mattan, Badgam, Tulla mulla and no stranger has ever occupied such tenements. Why this furore now?
And haven’t Pandits lived in Kashmir in separate colonies or mohallas? It is not a new phenomenon for Kashmir where Punjabis, Sikhs, Pandits etc. have lived in specific areas, villages etc. without any resentment. And it goes to the respect and dignity of the Pandit that he should choose the place of his living on his own. Does he need to be under the watchful eyes of his Muslim neighbors all the time? If that is the thinking of Geelani Sahib and his cohort then it is probably not the right time for Pandits to return.
Return of Kashmiri Pandits is a sensitive issue for not only Pandits but peace loving and secular minded Muslims too, as it concerns their centuries-old heritage eroded by a few zealous groups. It is therefore important that this subject is treated as a humanitarian issue and not politicized to score brownie points.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 18 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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