Advisory body for refugees

B L Saraf
It is a statement of fact. Except for a few brief and intermittent spells of relative peace political ambience of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly of the Valley, has always been volcanic.  It wouldn’t admit of even a small course correction when need arose. On the contrary, skewed politics of the Valley ensured that underlying fault lines always remained active.  So much so, the unpleasant circumstances allowed pre -1990 turbulence to descend into the virulence of sorts in the latter years which we continue to suffer, without any respite. Already intractable,  the complexities went  on  to assume a malignant character to the extent that what could be a medicine for them, one day, turned contraindicative, next day . Probably, that explains State’s off and on experimentation which has been under way since 1990. However, nothing could be retrieved so far.  No wonder, another experiment is on the anvil.
With a view to restore peace in the Valley  and  fulfill commitments made to the people in State by the PDP/ BJP coalition Government, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA ) has announced a series of fresh Confidence Building Measures (CBMs ) for J&K. As reported, one of the most significant decisions of the Home Ministry pertained to migrants and refugees. It has been explained as:
“In order to redress the grievances of the migrants, including Kashmiri migrants, Jammu migrants, displaced persons of POJK, Chhamb and West Pakistan, the Union Home Minister has advised the State Government to immediately constitute an Advisory Board for the migrants.” The Board, as reported, would suggest immediate measures required to help various groups of migrants and refugees, putting up in different parts of Jammu region.
We are told that MHA has also advised the Jammu and Kashmir Goverment to formulate ‘Surrender and Rehabilitation Policy ‘  for the militants, who shun path of violence and set up high level committee headed by Director General / Additional Director General to review remaining cases of the stone pelters.
If not for anything else, at least this measure needs to be noticed as a reiteration of concern of the powers that be to address some aspects of the ‘ core issue ‘. It will not be out of place to mention here that earlier, too, there were Joint Parliamentary Committee recommendations on the subject. We are yet to hear what happened to them. Same can be said about PM’s package announced in 2008. Except for some movement on the employment component rest of the package is gathering dust. Before announcing new body it would be better to take stock of how much progress has been made following those announcements and share information with the public, to gain their confidence.
Some keen observers feel that fresh move is an attempt to make up for what has been lacking, so far, in the effort to address the problems faced by the people in the state and mollify the widespread public anger over the alleged failure of incumbent State Government in addressing issues of displaced Pandits, Jammu migrants refugees from POJK and West Pakistan. They fear, not without a reason, that proposed body would meet same fate which, in the past, earlier ones of similar nature met with.
How tragic, those original residents have turned refugees in their own land. The problem does have roots in 1947 events but 1990 saw an aggravation.  Successive Governments, both in State and at Centre, have failed to address the problem. Having failed to avert the 1990 tragedy, Goverments proved ineffective to build upon the atmosphere created by 1996 State Assembly Elections.
To Kashmiri Pandits, Jammu migrants, POJK and West Pakistan Refugees pain of enforced displacement is common. While as they struggle  for  the similar  end but, on account of  varied nature  of problem  faced by each of them, tools  to be employed  to achieve the purpose  may not be the same. West Pakistan refugees are the worst suffers among the lot. They stand deprived of human rights which Apex Court has flagged time and again, and called upon the state authorities to act swiftly to address the issue. Even their basic claim of citizenship stands denied.  Under these circumstances, it will neither be politically nor administratively prudent to have one omnibus and unwieldy Advisory Body for all kinds of the migrants. A separate body for each category of the displaced persons, with precise and unambiguous terms of reference and a definite time schedule, will serve the purpose.
The Advisory Body as and when  is framed must be appreciative of the sensitivities of the persons intended to be looked after and bear in mind that  they don’t  have ‘ grievances ‘ but face serious existential issues. It is moot point whether the proposed Advisory Body can succeed to sort out the issue. Apex Committees of 2002 and 2009 didn’t tell a single tale of success. In fact, given their unwieldy and politically coloured composition, these Committees created more problems than solved any .
It is said that hope sustains life. In that spirit let us keep cynicism apart for a while and pray for the success of new endeavor! At the same time this must be our second prayer that  Goverments – both in Jammu / Srinagar  and Delhi –  demonstrate  necessary political and administrative will to  honor  recommendations of these Bodies,  as and when they are made, and  see some amount of relief comes home to the  suffering people .
The proposed move, at best, may be an ad-hoc measure – a band -aid treatment. For redressal of issues confronted by the unfortunate people a holistic approach is, undoubtedly, required. For that we need accommodative politics that moves on  the path of inter- community reconciliation and allows for shared space . It is prudent to be equitable in dealing with humanitarian issues of all those whom Jammu has, magnanimously, given refuge and conjoin their rights, available to them, without any distinction being made on the degree of their pain and sufferings.
May the proposed Advisory Body / Bodies ring an appropriate tone !
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)