Plight of Sikhs in Kashmir

Randhir Singh Bali

Sikhs have been living in Kashmir since centuries. Sikhs saw  mass murders, lootings, arsons, rapes, forcible conversions, socio-economic bankruptcy, educational retardation ,unemployment, lack of professional training  and many other realities since the dawn of independence. The successive Governments in the State of Jammu & Kashmir gave a  step motherly treatment to the Sikhs. Then came 1989 when turmoil erupted in the valley aided and abetted by the forces inimical to our traditional communal harmony resulting in displacement  of minorities from the valley of Kashmir towards safer pastures in Jammu and other parts of the country. We can`t forget the 19th Jan. 1989 when we saw the radicalized processions in every nook and corner of the valley. That was the Dooms day when lakhs of  Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs had to leave their homes and hearths never to come back. Sikhs   have a living history of few centuries but the Pandits had been living in Kashmir for the past many centuries before the advent of Islam in Kashmir.
The mass exodus of minorities from Kashmir particularly the KPs started after the soft target killing of  Tik Lal Taploo, a BJP leader. As per Kasmiri Pandit Sangrash Samiti (KPSS) who conducted an independent censes program about Pandit population from pre 1990 upto 31.03.2008 shows 75,343 (3,67,289 souls) families opted for migration due to security reasons leaving their homes and hearth back in valley.  A total of  37128 families of  KPs are registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation (Migrant) Commissioner, Jammu and rest in different parts of India. At present 808 families consisting of 3445 souls are still living in the valley that didn’t migrate. The information received by the author in response to an RTI to Relief & Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrant), Jammu 1738 families of  Sikhs are registered in Jammu who migrated from Kashmir mostly from Baramulla (604 families), Budgam  (382 families ) Srinagar (331 families ) and in trickles from other districts of Kashmir.
Kashmiri Pandits  faced the mass killings in Kashmir at Wandhama, Sangrampora, Telwani,  Nadimarg and Sikhs at Chittisingpora and Mehjoor Nagar. The biggest massacre of Sikhs was at village Chittisinghpora of Anantnag district of Kashmir in which 35 innocent and unarmed Sikhs were killed brutally in cold blood on 20th March, 2000. Notwithstanding, such a big provocation and frequent belligerence aimed to frighten the Sikhs by the radical elements, they  stayed back. Before turmoil erupted, more than 20,000 Sikh families were living in valley and only 8.7% opted for migration whereas, 99.14% of   KPs left the valley for safe pastures. Sikhs thought it proper to be part of the sufferings along with their Muslim brethren
Sikhs living mostly in the remotest mountain villages had to shift from major towns of the valley leaving behind all their apple orchards and agriculture land in ruins. Agriculture was the mainstake for the Sikhs and had been earning their livelihood mostly by tilling their lands. The employment scenario is discouraging as compared to the KPs who were mostly employed in state or central Govt jobs. That is to say Sikhs were left in lurch and neither the state nor the central Govt came to their rescue. Their economic condition has dwindled and worsened to such an extent in the absence of job opportunities that most of the educated youth have become drug abusers and are in distress.  The employment opportunity generated under Prime Minister`s Special Package for Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Migrants in 2009 vide SRO 412, was a ray of hope but proved a dejection.
Sikhs and Kashmiri Pandits who stayed back undeterred when valley was in conflagration irrespective of their percentage  and had not migrated from valley after November 1, 1989 are more sufferers than those who left the valley. They sacrificed their everything and continued to hold their heads high in true spirit of patriotism and nationalism without caring for their lives. Then how come the Govt brought certain amendments in the actual SRO by way of Notification under SRO No. 425 dated October10, 2017 by adding “Kashmiri Pandit” in place of  “Kashmiri  Migrant” thereby giving advantage of one job per family of Kashmiri Pandits and ignoring the Sikhs presently living in valley in hostile conditions. There are more than 15000 unemployed educated Sikh having graduate, post graduate and doctorate degrees in their hands but unfortunately both the state and central Governments have neglected them.  We are not against the absorption of Pandits under Prime Minister`s Special Employment Package as they also need jobs to sustain their lives but the hypocritical approach of the Govt. using different yard sticks to measure the sufferings of two minorities of Kashmir sends a loud and clear message that the present dispensation in the state and NDA in the center has no policy for Sikhs.
What would be impact of the SRO on the lives of Sikhs presently living in Kashmir? The Sikhs would start feeling alienated and the situation of mass exodus which rose in the aftermath of Chittisinghpora killings will be created again with nobody to stop them. This amended SRO is highly discriminatory and against the principal of equality in light of Article 14 of the Indian constitution
(The author is District President BJP Minority Morcha)