Twenty years have passed since the exiled Pandits in 1991 unanimously adopted the historical Homeland Resolution, demanding the political reorganization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir so as to facilitate the creation of Panun Kashmir, a Homeland for all those who have been forced out of Kashmir on the pain of death and destruction. This Homeland, the Resolution demanded, be placed under a Union Territory, comprising the Northern and Eastern regions of River Vitasta (Jhelum), and be governed by the unhindered flow of the Constitution of India. The Resolution also envisaged a state-hood for Jammu Division and another Union Territory for Ladakh Region.
In December 2011, the Union Minister of State for Home, Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha that a “package of 1,618 crore rupees was sanctioned for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants in the valley in 2008. But so far no family has returned.” He also informed that of this amount, about Rupees 22.89 crores were spent on (non-existent) transit camps. But he did not explain why the displaced families had spurned this economic package meant to attract their return, nor did he make any mention of Rs. 400 Crores spent in the name of the so-called Jagati Township.
In the twenty two years of the exile and ethno-religious cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from their habitat of thousands of years, the State and the Central Governments, have shown no commitment in resolving the issues confronting this community. Only a lip service and a lack of a humanistic component form the institutional approach towards the exiles. This has made the Pandits skeptical about the very intentions of the political establishment, which instead of applying balm on their festering sours of disappointment and dejection, has created a nexus of Relief Agencies and their agents who harass the victims eking out a living in the “migrant camps” and those who draw relief and ration from these agencies. The bureaucratic-political nexus draws huge funds in the name of Relief and has no qualms in squandering the same in the scandalous projects like Jagati, where mega corruption is likely to be unearthed, if investigated by an independent agency.
Not content with this brazen display of corruption, the state agencies have also deployed devious methods of coercion, ignoring the nation’s commitment to international precedence and covenants. The exiled Hindus are categorized as “migrants”. The circumstances and conditions of their exodus should have placed them in the category of “IDPs” (Internally Displaced Persons); and that would have also enjoined upon the governments in Srinagar and Delhi certain responsibilities viz. a viz. treatment to the exiled community and the component and conditions of Relief, and their Return and Rehabilitation. As IDPs, the exiles in fact would be entitled to special rights and privileges, under the UN Charters and Resolutions, and no coercion could be imposed upon them. It is primarily this set of responsibilities that the Indian Union and the State of Jammu & Kashmir do not want to own; neither do they want the exiled Pandits to be provided any immunity against the coercive arm twisting.
It seems that the UPA Government and its coalition partner in J&K have accepted Jammu and Kashmir as a sphere of Islamic influence, conceding it morally as an extension of the Af-Pak region, but territorially keeping it a part of India, as a corridor cutting into the Pamirs and Sinkiang on one hand, and the Indian heartland on the other. To make this unholy arrangement acceptable to Indian masses, the entire design needs a camouflage of secularism. What else than a token return of the exiled Pandits to the Valley to provide the stamp of a deceptive Secularism. And in order to facilitate this coerced token return, the UPA Government announced a disguised and misplaced 1618 Crore “Prime Minister’s Package on Return and Rehabilitation of Migrants”.
It is misleading and a misnomer to call it a package for the Kashmiri Pandits, as the Parliament was informed. A closer look at the phrasing of the package reveals that it is wrapped in subtle jargon, making several categories of affected people as claimants to PM’s largesse. For example, the refugees of 1947 from present PoK, have been bracketed with the internally displaced persons from Kashmir and made partners to the package. They are victims of the holocaust of the partition of 1947 and deserve treatment at par with millions of other refugees. Kashmiri Pandits on the other hand have been subjected to ethnic cleansing, where a secular and democratic State absolutely failed to protect them. Likewise, the widows of the victims of violence in J&K are also categorized as a group entitled to a share in PM’s Package. The advocacy groups in Kashmir claim that more than a lakh of people were killed during the violence in Kashmir. This number is apart from the Kashmiri Pandits who were martyred during the Islamic Jihadist violence. As such the widows of these one lakh victims are also entitled to a share of what is being showcased as a “Package for Pandits.” The State government has played another trick by ascribing the term “internally displaced” for people who have migrated from far-flung areas of the valley to Srinagar and other district head quarters (and not the Kashmiri Pandits who actually are the IDPs but are being treated as “migrants”); and these migrants too have been bracketed with the exiled Kashmiri Pandits for benefits under the PMs package.
The State government has devised machinations that tantamount to coercive tactics and harassment of the displaced victims. It has framed ridiculous and illegal service rules for the Pandit recruits to government jobs. After a resolute dithering the State government agreed to provide around 1800 (but in reality only a little above 1200) government jobs to ‘Kashmiri Migrants ‘out of a total of 3000 jobs whose financial burden would be borne exclusively by the Central government, under the PM’s package. After accepting the Prime Minister’s Package for the ‘Kashmiri Migrants’ the state government refused to fulfill its part of the employment package and declared such recruitments as against the provisions of the State Constitution. Then by linking this employment package to terms of return and delinking it from all factors which led to the cleansing of Hindus from Valley, the jobs were provided only to those candidates who had agreed to return to the Kashmir valley with a written undertaking to the state government with an assurance to stay put in the Valley under all circumstances come what may. To seek such an undertaking is not only discriminatory and illegal, but in fact a coercive measure. Denial of genocide and refouling of the victims is glaring in this entire enterprise.
But kudos to Kashmiri Pandits and the Panun Kashmir! They have despite all odds stood their ground firmly. In fact, the entire community has shown a resolute determination in spurning this Prime Minister’s economic package since it ignores the safety and security of the community; it completely obfuscates the issue of their political empowerment; it dismisses protection and preservation of their shrines and properties; and it has no provision for their compact rehabilitation. Why should Pandits feel enthused for such a misplaced and misconceived package that has nothing to offer to the victims in terms of reversing their genocide and ethno-religious cleansing? In the Apex Committee formed by the Relief Organization and that gives no room to Panun Kashmir, the members showed exemplary courage in dismissing this plan and expressing their disapproval of the coercive policy of the government. In fact many of the members of Apex Committee joined hands with the Jagati inmates and launched a mass protest against bad management and corrupt practices of the Relief Organization. They have shown their resolve and spoken from Panun Kashmir platform in demanding their legitimate share in the Kashmir Valley, and in being comrade in arms. It is an exemplary display of Unity among the community cadres and organizations.
Today, the Margadarshan Resolve has become a guiding factor of the community’s resolute determination for pursuing its legitimate rights as Internally Displaced Persons, and envisages their return and rehabilitation in an internationally accepted frame-work under the UN charter and covenants. Kashmiri Pandits of all hues are gathering and galvanizing as a unified mass and articulating their aspirations for Panun Kashmir – a geo-political dispensation in a politically reorganized State of Jammu and Kashmir. With Ladakhis and Jammuites also determined to claim their legitimate share in any future resolution of the Kashmir problem, its fructification appears not a distant dream but a possible reality.
The time is ripe for the powers that be to review the Kashmir Policy that has so far yielded only adverse results and caused further alienation. This policy has pushed the State of Jammu and Kashmir and its problems into labyrinthine morass that needs a bold and decisive initiative to extricate it from the present mess. Overwhelmed by the violent eruptions, terrorist blackmail and competitive communal politics, the Union of India is considering options like greater autonomy and self-rule to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio. Such options not only tend to embolden separatist tendencies and strengthen communal stridency in the State; it also involves a malevolent engagement with Pakistan as a party. Contrary to this, the Margadarshan Resolution is a significant and constructive arrangement available, which tends to meet the aspirations of all the major stake-holders in the State of Jammu & Kashmir; it is also a strategy that would exclude Pakistan and Pakistan sponsored interest groups, marginalize them and render them irrelevant. It strives to give secular nation building precedence over communal politics in Jammu and Kashmir. Let the policy makers engage with Panun Kashmir and other regional groups in the State, as also with advocacy groups, academics and political parties in an inter-regional dialogue to ascertain their opinion on power sharing, decentralization of power and empowerment of the people and regions to device modalities for the political re-organization of Jammu and Kashmir.