The resettlement of Kashmiri Pandit migrants back to their homes in the Valley has emerged as a renewed mission of the Government. It is something that was in waiting for almost three decades. But nothing concrete was happening, because the involvement of the masses was least, and whenever they made efforts to restore the pre-1990 Kashmir in which Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims lived in the neighbhourhood of each other, those were jolted violently by the perpetrators of violence. Luckily for now their violent campaign has been contained.
But the government would do it better to make local Muslims partners in this mission for its greater success and promising future. That is a necessity. The contours of the rehabilitation plan have been worked out to re-offer the space to the Kashmiri Pandits an inseparable part of the Kashmir polity and ethos. These should be given a practical shape, an it appears that the work is in progress with all seriousness.
Governor Satya Pal Malik who is the Government of India’s representative in Kashmir is very clear on this issue. He knows that how the things are to be brought back on rails because of his political instincts. He has performed his task very well in all his missions in the past- the holding of Panchayat, Municipal and Parliamentary elections. The elections should not be viewed merely as an electoral exercise, rather it was having a deeper meaning, generating a sort of confidence in the democratic institutions and giving a meaning to the vote that the voters polled. It was a great achievement of the Malik administration.
Now in an interview with Hindustan Times, published in the newspaper’s Sunday edition Governor Malik said in reply to the questions of the reporter that the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley was a “necessity”. The excerpts from his interview are quite striking and revealing.
What about this idea of Kashmiri Pandits coming back to the valley and living in a gated community? Is it a solution?
All these people who claim to be major leaders there, haven’t we given them police and army? Aren’t we protecting them? We will have to do the same for the Pandits. The best course would have been that those who have taken away their homes, invite them back.
For this, Mehbooba and Omar, Farooq Sahab and Hurriyat should make an effort to convince their society to do this and leave their homes. That’s not my job, that’s their job. I am just trying to provide them an alternate accommodation so that they have a home, a school and security.
They come to the valley even now because they have grown up over here and they holiday here, can’t live without it. Their home can only be returned by those that snatched it and the feeling of unity has to be provided by the genuine political leadership over here. Do any of these leaders say this to them?
So you think till then separate township is required?
Separate township is not a matter of choice but out of necessity. We have to give them a nice place to stay, of their choice.
So have you chosen that?
Yes, those places are identified. We are working on those places.
Where are those places?
There are several that are there, In Pulwama and in other places. We won’t just settle them anywhere, but in nice places of their choice. We will give it to them for free.
The government has mapped out certain plans for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. There is an unquenchable yearning among the elders of the community now spread over to different parts of the country, particularly in Jammu and its surroundings, to return to the land of their forefathers. They enjoy the goodwill and their memories about the land are profound. And, they can be a better unifying force in the Valley with the local Muslims than any other class. The elders have shared experiences and memories to which they can relate to the sharing of the celebrations on Eid and Shivratri festivals. They were partners in the moments o happiness and sorrow of one another, and that kind of bond exists even today. There were condolences from the local Muslim community over the death of their neighbours, teachers and doctors in other places of the country. And, Kashmiri Muslims make it a point to attend the weddings of the children of their Kashmiri Pandit friends in Jammu or other parts of the country despite forbidding range of airfares. The bonds are there. They just need to be dusted off.
But the whole job of getting them back to the Valley should not be merely a governmental affair. The involvement of the locals is must. It is the necessity. The Government can facilitate transit accommodation for the Kashmiri Pandits before they can back to their original homes. That also poses a big challenge – many of the migrants have sold their homes and orchards in the past 30 years, some of the houses still lie in an abandoned condition – dilapidated, half burnt and inhabitable. Some were occupied by the security forces, both as guardians of the property and paid the rent, though delayed for years together, and also as the security measure to maintain overall security in the vicinity.
Bigger challenge is that how to get Kashmiri Pandit youth back to the Valley for they have chosen their future outside the state and country. These are certain facts that cannot be overlooked. The road ahead is not without challenges.