Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo
On this 19th January 2020, the Kashmiri Pandits will complete three tragic and painful decades of their seventh mass exodus from Kashmir Valley, their abode for the last thousands of years. Pandits have been observing this day every year as the Holocaust Day right from 1991, in their exile, throughout the globe.
It was in 2017 that the erstwhile Legislative Assembly of the Jammu & Kashmir state passed a unanimous resolution on 19th January itself emphasising the need for return and resettlement of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. This historically important resolution that was passed on 19th January is tantamount to due recognition of the day as the Day of Holocaust for the Pandits in the valley.
A large number of national and international political, human rights, social, cultural, constitutional, legal and legislative bodies have expressed themselves about the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Pandits all these thirty years. While the National Human Rights Commission in its decision in June 1999 said that ‘acts akin to Genocide have been committed against the Kashmiri Pandits and a genocide type design may exist in the minds and utterances of the militants and terrorists’, the Delhi High Court observed that ‘the Pandits are the victims of ethnic cleansing’.
The J&K High Court termed the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits as unparalleled and adjudged that it can’t be equated with any other displacement of the people in the state. The government of India last year through the Secretary to the government (Home Affairs) classified the atrocities against the Pandits as Genocide. Amnesty International and US Committee for Refugees long back called the displacement of the Pandits as the consequences of the selective attacks by gunmen and terrorists in Kashmir against them.
Three decades of long struggle has slowly and steadly brought Kashmiri Pandit community out of the “trauma of victimhood”, and rightfully so. Their long struggle in exile at both individual and collective level has paved a sense of relief to them that they were able to survive and prosper due to their hard labour, application of mind, converting opportunities into ventures and according value to relations with the new neighbourhood, friendship and fraternity-feeling outside Kashmir valley during their exile.
The womenfolk and the younger generation of the Pandit community made an indelible mark all these years by executing exemplary character and penchant for success and glory both. The Pandits in the words of the Hindustan Times editorial of ninetees are “the Victims of the State too”. Inspite of the experiences of apartheid and bias, they continued with their perseverance, attitude and accommodating approach to move ahead with, without and despite.
The Pandits made it sure that they don’t forget the facts of history but with the passage of time they exhibited their ageold ethos of forgiveness. At an individual level, they did not develop animosity and hatred against the majority community of Kashmir. While expressing their anger against the tragic events of brutalities, they maintained the decorum of language, debate and discussion. This helped the Pandit community to grow in a spiritual sense. They have indeed created a high moral ground in the overall scenario pregnant with a lot of political upheavals and vicissitudes.
With the change of narrative on Kashmir over the last a couple of years and particularly with effect from August 2019, there is an imperative need to create an atmosphere of accomodation for Pandits in Kashmir, politically speaking. Pandits are the Indegenous people of Kashmir and have every right to be there. The possibility of their return and resettlement can be thought of as an important agenda for the year 2020. In this connection, the following can formulate a roadmap for the future. This seven point agenda can lead the displaced community to resettle in Kashmir for good, plus with fraternity-feeling with the majority community as well. It includes the following:
1. All those Hindus of Kashmir who were forced to leave the Kashmir valley in the past 700 years due to religious persecution, division of Jammu and Kashmir state in 1947 and terrorism need to be resettled in Kashmir as the primary stakeholders of the valley of Kashmir. In this connection, the planning should be initiated forthwith,
2. All such seven hundred thousand people may be resettled at one place in the valley keeping in view their Geo-political and fundamental aspirations in Kashmir,
3. In order to secure the political rights of the Hindu-Sikh communities in the valley, the delimitation process need to reserve five seats in the Assembly of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir for these minorities,
4. A “Special Crimes Tribunal” be established to enquire into the excesses, genocide and ethnic cleansing committed against the Hindu-Sikh minorities of Kashmir in view of the pronouncement made by the National Human Rights Commission in 1999 in this regard,
5. A Bill envisaging preservation, protection, promotion and management of Hindu temples and shrines in Kashmir be adopted as an Ordinance by the UT of Jammu and Kashmir in the immediate future,
6. The recruitment of the youth of the displaced community, in order to fill up all 6,000 reserved posts in the government under PM Package, may be done without any further delay and in this connection, the administrative measures may be taken on priority &
7. The over aged youth of the displaced community, who could not apply for the government jobs, due to being over-aged, may be granted ‘one-time compensation settlement’ so that they are in a position to carry on their life in the valley of Kashmir with dignity, assurance and the required financial strength.
This has the potential to become the Agenda of Future and the syllabus for reconciliation for the Pandit community which has attained the expertise to hide its pain behind the smiling faces of its members all these difficult thirty long years.
The stakeholders of the Jammu and Kashmir have a large agenda for upliftment of the UT in all spheres of life. Investments in J&K are now a crucial issue which can create new and permanent infrastructure in Kashmir focussed on overall development. There is an imperative need to create employment opportunities in the UT in major areas of activity like education, health, tourism, infrastructure and ecology & environment. The Kashmiri Pandits with their new atonement can be expected to add value to life in the UT of J&K. This possibility can be realized in near future in case the Pandits are delivered the promises made to them all these thirty years by all successive regimes.
The PM Modi led Union government has the necessary political will to take the path-breaking strides to achieve the set targets. The resettlement of the Pandits in Kashmir valley will be the most cherished step that will create history of sorts for the nation. In order to implement the desired agenda finally, the Ordinance in regard to the temples and shrines in Kashmir valley can play the role of prelude to the resettlement issue.
It is now the time of delivery of the due rights to the Pandits given the scenario of promises made to them all these years of their exile. The land where lay “the ashes of their forefathers and the temples of their gods” is invariably the Kashmir valley, the gifted land which their earliest forefather, Rishi Kashyap inhabited for them thousands of years ago. For Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmir is indeed The Promised Land for them….!
Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo