B L Saraf
19th January 2020, has passed into history. The day is thirty one in succession Kashmiri Pandits have been counting with a shiver. Apparently, there is nothing special about the day to talk to, except recalling the shrill memories of horror, hovering dark clouds and the deadly chill of catastrophic moments – compounded by the treacherous Chill e Kallan – the helpless Kashmiri Hindus had to go through this day, in 1990. The day bears evidence to the forced displacement of whole Pandit Community, engineered by the fanatical elements in valley, prompted by the bigoted forces stationed across LOC. The day constantly reminds of a tragic tale that Pandits live uprooted in their own country. Some say it is desirable for the exile to keep reminded of the trauma : forgetting that would mean his second death.
This has been a torturous and, seemingly, an unending journey of the displaced persons. Thiers has been a story of fluctuating hopes – sometimes rising high on the tide and then dashing deep in the sea. The DPs are caught in an ever revolving up and down cycle. Relegated to the foot notes they are brought to the centre stage if political convenience demands so and then stand reverted back when political incorrectness begins to show.
Every exile dreams of return. The exile KPs are no exception. They know that the place to return to is not the same as it was when they were made to leave it. Nevertheless, they sense that even the transformed landscape and changed environment will give them a feeling of Home. The displaced KPs may have established themselves elsewhere but the feeling has never deserted them that what they have left behind is their homeland. And that their lineage is a stout defense against the onslaught on their culture and customs which the displacement has brought on, as a collateral consequence. That feeling has seen them sail through the turbulent times.
In run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Srinagar and told a gathering, ” he shared pain of the displaced KPs ” and expressed his commitment ” to restore rights and justice ” to the Pandits. Assuring return and rehabilitation of KPs to the Valley he said “work on more transit accommodation for them at Vessu and Sheikhpora was on and after construction of 700 flats, the Kashmiri Pandits will get roof to live in the Valley. Kashmiryat demands that those Kashmiri Pandits who had to flee due to the violence here, leaving behind their homes, land and memories of ancestors, they should be settled here with full honor.” Modi said ” government was duty bound to provide employment to those who want to return.” He had ” the confidence that recruitment to 3000 posts sanctioned by the state government under PMDP will take place soon.” We are sure that post May 2019 this resolve must have got strengthened.
In the beginning of 2019 the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS ) issued advisory to the state government to furnish details for ” preparing an assessment ” on Kashmir migrants. The top advisory body of GOI sought area wise details of immovable properties of Kashmiri migrants ” at present or sold in Kashmir since 1990.” The exercise reportedly got underway to invoke distress sale provisions of the relevant law.
These development, indeed, constituted “a statement of the intent ” which the displaced community has taken in a right spirit. Now that PM Narendra Modi has a big and renewed mandate and that Centre ruling directly, the intent must be displayed by addressing a few redeemable concerns. PM Modi is a person who can walk the talk. As a token of good intention, he should tell the UT government to de notify the lands of the displaced Pandits and return to them which have been taken over on the skewed ‘notion ‘ of public purpose and held unutilized so far. There is demand of the Hindu community of Kashmir for a law to protect, preserve and manage its religious places in the Valley. PM Modi could reinforce confidence in the displaced community if he ensures such an enactment and tells L G to move in the desired direction.
Kashmiri Pandits have great faith in PM Narendra Modi. Their love with him started in May,2014 and continues till date with a renewed vigor, more so after 5TH August 2019 developments. They feel the PM is conscious of the fact that PM package announced in 2008 for the return and rehabilitation of the exile has, till date, been implemented only in a minor part. How much more time the remaining part of the Package will take to materialize? Many young unemployed have crossed age limit in wait of the employment.
It is complicated to sort out the issue of return and rehabilitation of the exile. Prevalence of a congenial atmosphere is sine quo non for the displaced persons to live physically rooted to their land of ancestors. They can’t bear another forced dislocation. They need not only a roof in Kashmir but also an entitlement to such guaranteed citizenry rights, as are available to the minorities elsewhere India. KPs feel that present atmosphere is conducive for their honorable return to the roots. Failure to capitalize on it will be a disappointment to them.
It is important to note that no discordant voices are heard, within the displaced community. Or, else, someone among them will be compelled to say that for the displaced Pandits time has come to tell the government to listen to the unarticulated version that their redemption lies beyond ken of the persons who claim to speak on their behalf. We have experienced in the past that a government’s attempt to speak to one section or the two has ended up only in a diversion and betrayal.
Pandit in Kashmir fits well in the definition when PM Modi says ” J&K is not only a matter of our territorial integrity but also defines our nationality.” That casts a huge duty in the nationalist forces across the mainland to ensure his dignified presence in the Valley.
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf