B L Saraf
L G Manoj Sinha has gladdened hearts of millions of displaced Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) by calling upon state administrative machinery to work fast to create conditions for their return. Speaking to officers while chairing a meeting to review the functioning of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Department in Srinagar, the other day, Manoj Sinha said “officers must take proactive steps to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee their homes. Those KPs who live in other parts of country and abroad and want to come back must be registered with the Government.Work in this regard must be done with sensitivity and sincerity.”
Coming at the time when displaced community seems to have given up on the return front and sense of helplessness is overwhelming them – for being consistently neglected by the powers that be- this news may rekindle hope in them. It is pertinent to recall that sometime back L G had given a hint of government plan. Having then noticed the plight of the displaced Pandits he sought to assure them with the statement ” a proper rehabilitation plan for migrant Kashmiri Pandits may be in the pipeline. As lot has been thought about the community and soon something is going to happen which you haven’t even imagined .” He further said ” we are talking about 6000 jobs and equal number of residential accommodation for migrant KPs in the Valley. This is a minute part of rehabilitation of the community in the Valley .” What made this statement remarkable was that it delinked employment from the return plan.
The displaced community complimented LG for those comforting words then, as it does today on his reassuring statement. However, having past experience in this regard one has to keep fingers crossed whether the assurance will translate into realty – and if so how soon ? With regular intervals, the displaced Pandits have been hearing such words over the period of time, with no worthwhile movement to redeem them . May be this time it will mean true. We understand that the return of the Pandits has, unfortunately, become far too complex a matter and got intertwined with so many other issues that confront people living in J&K, which has made it complicated for a straightforward and all satisfactory solution. Circumstances have created so many stakes and the stakeholders that those who really matter have been relegated to the margins .
It is true that much work on the matter of return has to be done by the Government but it is equally important for the displaced community to be conscious of its duty in this regard . Rather than scuttling a move made by the government in this direction , in the embryo, it is incumbent on the community to act as sincere facilitator. Many experts have sprung up to speak for the displaced Pandits, unsolicited , floating unworkable plans and illogical theories which help no body’s cause but only thwart the very idea of return. The unfortunate exodus of the Pandits is one of the great tragedies ; it is story of human sufferings . Their return to the home is neither victory for some nor defeat for the others. This is not the game of victors and the vanquished . It is the return of aborigine. There is very limited scope to play politics on the miseries .
In the ‘ Return Narrative ‘ we must not lose sight of certain genuine concerns which tax mind of the displaced persons. There ought to be some clarity regarding the place or places, in the Valley , the displaced persons have to return to. Where ever they have to start a new life, in Kashmir, the place or places should provide them feeling of security – social, emotional , spiritual and above all of person and property . The fear of another exodus shouldn’t haunt them. Then , in this context , there has to be some respect for their “choice.” Therefore it will better if Government is a bit transparent in unveiling the return policy, and seeks fair amount of feedback from the persons likely to be affected in the process. Some hint must come out as to what is in the mind of government regarding return and rehabilitation of Pandits in Kashmir.The displaced persons feel economically and politically disempowered. To add to the woes, the benefits which should normally accrue to them for being a minority stand denied to them. Some kind of mechanism has to be found by the state to address this aspect.
Before embarking on the return plan it is desirable for the Government to initiate measures which will add to the confidence of KPs. The PM Package employees are battling on the ground against so many issues raised unnecessarily. Even after decade long stay in Kashmir they continue to fight for proper accommodation. The component is yet to be fulfilled completely. Employees have to confront some erroneous issues which hamper their promotion prospects. Recently issued SRO 194 and other government orders have caused a good deal of confusion in their ranks . Progression in the service career is eluding these employees .
There is a long standing demand of the KPs to have a legislation for protection of Hindu Temples and Shrines in the Valley which are in a pathetic condition . Quite a number of them have disappeared from the ground and many have been erased from the records. LG Manoj Sinha may act in good time on these demands as they could turn out to be the authentic CBMs for the displaced community to place confidence in his endeavor to see them back in Kashmir.
(The author is Former Principal District and Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf