Friday, March 1, 2024
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LG speaks to the internally displaced KPs

K N Pandita

State or national leadership and ruling authorities of all hues usually shun discussing the fate and the problems of internally displaced Kashmiri Pandits living in exile for three decades and half.

The reasons for this chilling apathy, though many, are mostly absurd.

If they are a literate community while the majority community in the valley mostly remained illiterate, should that be a reason to despise them? Did the Pandits dissuade or hinder them from becoming literate?

Yes, many educated persons from the minority community managed to find petty government during the Mughal, Pathan and Dogra rule over the State which fills nearly four centuries of J&K history. The reason was not religion; it was the principle of demand and supply. State administration is run by bureaucracy which means the educated class.
Interestingly, even during nearly three hundred years of the rule of Sultans, the administration had to requisition the services of the educated youth belonging to the Hindu minority community despite all atrocities unleashed against them. The same formula, minus oppression and persecution, worked during the Sikh and Dogra rule. However, under the Dogra rule, especially during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the educational system was expanded all over the state.

Did the Pandits forbid the valley-based majority community to pursue education and obtain credentials for recruitment in government services? The Muslim parents of those days invariably send their wards to the Islamic seminaries to perfect their knowledge of Islamiyat.

Yet another reason of despising the Pandits is their alleged closeness to Congress meaning Nehru leadership. Nehru was the elected Congress leader from Phulpur East (UP) electoral constituency which did not contain even one Pandit voter. And if a couple of members from the Pandit community in administrative rose to important positions, it was all owing to their merit, efficiency and calibre and not because of any special favour by the Congress leadership. Why should it become a cause of annoyance for anybody?

The only real reason for a cold behaviour towards them is firstly they are not any political party’s vote bank because their number is too small and they are scattered. Democratic India of our times is managed through vote bank politics. The Pandits do not figure in the chemistry of influential political parties in the country. In a society torn by social grouping criteria, the Pandits become totally irrelevant to political parties. And if someone from among them strays into a national or regional level party, he will have to remain content with a low position in the party’s hierarchy because of lack of a solid political constituency. Hence, we find an occasional Pandit sycophant sticking his neck out and circumstantially appeasing the party by subtly denouncing his own community.

In this perspective, the exiled community was excited to find the Lt Governor, Shri Manoj Sinha agreeing to attend the Mahanavmi festival and addressing them. We have closely followed his speech on the occasion. He has been polite, and sympathetic choosing his words most carefully and subtly. There was nothing offensive or provocative nor did it have even an iota of sarcasm which we generally find in the speeches of leaders if and when they find time to address the community members.

However, it is the substance in an address like this in which we are interested. Without going into the long sordid saga of their genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kashmir valley, the displaced community yearns for restoration or normalcy in the valley which would pave the path for their return and restitution in their land of birth. Secondly, in a state of exile, they need redressal of a few specific problems which the administration can easily mitigate through the instrument of good will.

The Lt Governor has repeated that conditions have improved a lot in the valley and militancy has been contained to a satisfactory point This has also been endorsed by the DG Police Shri Dilbagh Singh. Let us hope that our patriotic armed and paramilitary forces will very soon declare Kashmir a normal area.

However, looking in retrospect, we find that the question of return of the displaced Pandits to the valley is an issue on which neither the central not the UT administration is prepared to come out with a crystal-clear statement. The NDA leadership never says that Kashmir is incomplete without the presence of the Kashmiri Pandit minority. This statement is frequently made by Dr Farooq Abdullah. The simple reason why the central authorities circumvent the issue and why Farooq repeatedly mentions it is that while the Central leadership cannot think out of box, Dr Farooq does. He has lived his entire life with and among the people of Kashmir of all religions and faiths and he feels the pain of his compatriots who are in a difficult situation. Contrary to it, the Central leadership cannot think of the displaced community beyond the realms of politics.

It takes shelter behind a variety of questions purportedly to rationalise its indecisiveness on the issue. The baggage of questions is like this. Should or should not the Pandits be allowed to return to Kashmir Valley? To appease the Muslims of the valley and thus expect their vote, the Union governments would prefer to let the Pandits disappear slowly. Where should they be located in the valley: in their ancestral places, in their respective villages and towns; in three or four clusters in the valley, in transition camps that could be converted into permanent residences, in a brand-new township along Damodhar Vudar (the present airport plateau area) or along the contemplated bypass that will link the Highway below Khanabad with Panchtarani on way to Amarnath Cave.

The site and module for rehabilitation of the displaced Pandits is reportedly under hot discussion at the inner circles of all major national and regional political parties. The reason why they are not able to come to any consensual opinion is that the risk of loosing the goodwill of the majority community in the valley haunts them relentlessly. Why should they take the risk when their commitment to the majority is so deep.

Reading between the lines of the Lt Governor’s recent address to the displaced community, which the Daily Excelsior of 27 October has editorially appreciated, we find that Shri Sinha does want to be somewhat more precise on this controversial issue but he seems to be restrained by the ambivalence of the central high command. Therefore, he talked just peripheries and corollaries and circumvented the crux of the case. He spoke, albeit incoherently, about the transit accommodation for the employees, improving security of the transit camps, some improved civic amenities for the migrant camps etc. He could not touch even one of the crucial issues but made his speech sweet and palatable by telling the audience that his doors were open for the pliant Pandits to get justice when approaching him formally.

At least, the displaced Pandits should be thankful to the Lt governor for breaking the jinx and addressing them in a body on the occasion of a feast. Maybe, he is able to convince the Centre that the long wait of 36 years for the Pandits of Kashmir should come to an end and the government must respond to the call for secularizing the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

(KN Pandita is the former Director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.)

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