The biggest and the most difficult question regarding Kashmir imbroglio is the return and resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits, the indigenous people of Kashmir. It needs no repetition that this hapless community of Kashmir, which was hounded out by the fundamentalist-terrorist enclave in Kashmir in 1989-90, continues to live in exile for the last thirty two years now. Governments after governments expressed their “intent” to bring the Pandits back without any tangible plan and dialogue on the issue with them. Rhetoric on the issue by the politicians of various hues has been more in sight than any sincere road ahead ever since the ethnic cleansing of Pandits. Every government, politician and administrator keep on repeating that ‘Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits’.
When the Supreme Court of India wanted to know, in a particular case on Kashmiri Pandits, fifteen years ago, about the then government’s resolve and plan to resettle the displaced Pandits back in Kashmir, the government submitted before it the PM’s Employment package for the youth of the displaced people. Then in 2008, the UPA II government led by the Congress announced the package for recruitment of 3,000 displaced youth in various government departments in Kashmir valley in the supernumerary capacity at the expense of the security related fund. The government and the administration knew that since the youth of the community was in total distress, thus the government would be successful in hoodwinking them to accept the “proposal” though with dire conditionality for them.
The then community’s awakened representatives opposed the package in the name of the so-called rehabilitation in Kashmir valley with anti human rights clauses attached to it. The community didn’t agree with the idea of rehabilitation under the garb and guise of the PM Recruitment package for the displaced youth. However, the community was lured rather forced to accept the package as the only method to get the desired employment for its educated unemployed youth. The community treated the employment package as a classic example of bonded labour and making its youth a near ‘hostage-group’ in the valley situations.
For the first time after a gap of 12 years of the implementation of the PM’s employment package, the head of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir made a loaded statement on the issue. The LG Manoj Sinha clarified the situation in this regard in April this year which coincided with the considered view of the KP displaced community in this context. He said that the resettlement issue and the PM Employment package are two different issues. The consistent and considered view of the displaced community is that while the issue of employment is an issue of economic subsistence, the resettlement is a political issue that needs its final solution, politically. Thus it needs to be clarified that the issue of resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir need not be confused with the PM’s Employment package.
During this month, a few days back, while addressing the Ajtak Channel Conference in Delhi, Manoj Sinha reiterated what he said in April 2021 regarding the subject. It is for the first time that a government high level authorised representative has made such an important statement with complete grit and grip. It has a strong background too. The PM’s employment package and its ‘rehabilitation tag’ is not the BJP’s baby, however, it supported the idea of employment for the youth of the displaced community under the package, and also fast-forwarded the recruitment drive under the package to around 6,000 recruitments barring around 200 by now.
In view of some serious current developments those have been taking place in the Kashmir valley for the last three months in particular, the PM Package employees have been caught in a very unpalatable situation due to the selective killings in the valley. They are given a feeling of being political waif and forsaken by certain sections in the administration and the society in Kashmir. Though both have a bounden duty to protect them and provide to them a sense of security in the valley in addition to the normal security and safety, they are being coerced to toe the dictum of their officers at the cost of their life in the valley. In fact, these hapless people need to be treated beyond like a ‘trapped community’ in their own homeland and their human rights regarding their rights like freedom of expression, liberty and life are as sacrosanct as they are for all others living in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
The hard fact of the matter is that the PM’s Employment package has completely failed as the so-called Rehabilitation plan for the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. It has multiplied the woes of the community and has happened repeatedly for the last twelve years. The recruited youth were put under terrible living conditions time and again due to the selective killings besides facing a hostile administrative environs in their offices where they stand appointed. As a consequence of continued selective killings in the valley, the minority community employees were scared and advised by their own colleagues, comrades, landlords and sympathizers to leave for Jammu for some time till normalcy would return.
Moreover, these employees need a proper and secured accommodation to live and stay in the valley in absence of any government accommodation. There are reports that their (who live in private accommodation) landlords in the current situation have also asked them to look for alternative arrangements for stay. In such a scenario, it is important that the administration provides them the government quarters which have been evacuated by the Jammu based secretariat employees in Srinagar. It will be a big help in favour of the PM package employees who have otherwise to fend for their accommodation in the valley.
On the one hand, these hapless employees are fighting for their survival in the valley and on the other hand, a section of the administration, with the help of its pen, seems hell bent upon to deprive them of their due. Application of SO 194, non-promotions to them while the same are provided to non-PM package employees are a couple of examples to cite here. The employees have been forced to take the route of courts to get justice, which exposes the intent of the administration in this regard.
The LG Manoj Sinha’s assertion in the Delhi Conference about a future plan for the resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, due to be announced after about three months, lacks the main ingredient in it. It is the discussion, dialogue, aspirations and approval of the people for whom the government contemplates to go ahead with the proposal. In case the displaced community is not taken into confidence on such a vital issue linked to the future of the community, the proposal is bound to meet the fate of the PM’s Employment package, which is a clear and complete failure in context of resettlement of the community. Moreover, providing jobs to the victims of the ethnic cleansing for their ‘rehabilitation’ in Kashmir is against the Principle of Refoulment.
It is high time that the government opens new vistas for an important and urgent dialogue with the displaced community, before it moves ahead with the resettlement plan for it in order to ensure their economic survival, full life and socio-political existence in their ancestral homeland, Kashmir. Any kind of hyperbole or overconfidence on the part of the government and administration in this regard will be fraught with dangerous consequences. Therefore, it is expected that the government listens to more wiser voices than going ahead solo and risk its stand on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits.......!
The author is a senior BJP and KP leader, Incharge: Deptt of Political Feedback, BJP-J&K
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.