Tinkering with return won’t avail!

Dr. R. L Bhat
It appears that all the players have accepted the present situation of uncertainty as the status quo in Kashmir. Previously, the NC-Cong Govt. used to say Kashmir is ‘normal’ and now PDP-BJP has come round to the same view. Kashmir is normal enough to hold an international marathon from Hazratbal to anywhere. And the int’l marathon turning into a mêlée, replete with stone peltings and anti-slogans is equally normal. So is the exhibition of ISIS-banners a phenomenon of normality. There, it is as normal for the army personnel to go full throttle to rescue people from a devastating flood and be denied any credit as it is for the vandalizes of the very relief material to award themselves for these services during the same flood. After all swimming across the rising waters and saving your skin is also ‘an act of bravery in the flood’.
The epitaph of this well-buried normalcy has been written in uncogitated protests ,  anti-India (and pro-Pak?) slogans, attack on police station and a demand by the former CM for a probe in Pattan over youth who had gone ‘missing’ to join Lashkar-e-Islam and disrupted communication in the anti-Tower crusade short months ago and were allegedly killed by HM from which the outfit had broken away. The protest has widened to the province. Meanwhile, Government functions, commerce of life goes on, recruitments are made, contracts given away. Monies, legal, illegal, halaal and hawala circulate sans and stop. People vote in highest ever percentages and then shutdown to support Geelani’s rants. All that is quite normal there. Probably, it would be so in comparison to 1990’s, but it ain’t Normal. The few hundred employees, very incorrectly labeled ‘migrants’ are so hemmed in, by this normalcy at the workplace, in market places, buses and other places, that they demand a ‘return’ to Jammu.
The real travesty in all this is when people say that all is normal there and that the Pandits have lived there all through the past quarter century and still do. Now, non-Muslims live, even in Pakistan. They were a million strong when they opted to stay in mamlikati- khudaadaad. Seventy years later they count for no more than a lakh, probably less – at the very least, a hefty 90% decline. A Rinki Kumari here and a kidnapped priest there, make to the headlines, but the huge percentages are lost without a trace. Over the last quarter century the numbers of the Hindus who had opted to stay in the homeland has seen a similar trend, a 75% reduction from the 12000 or so in 1995 to around 2500 now! Over the last four years the ‘migrant’ employees have had a taste of the works where zealotry rules the roost, rule and rant. And, want out. Not infrequently, they send out appeals to their families in Jammu not to  speak bluntly, or protest openly. The Rinki-stories are quickly buried, with the ‘lost’ ones.
In his The Man Who Divided India, Rafiq Zakaria tells that Jinnah, is his parleys with the cabined mission said that Hindus in Pakistan would be held in ransom for the safety of Muslims in India and vice versa. But a democratic country does not go by the warlord concepts of kidnap and ransom. Against the 90 % decline in Non-Muslims in Pakistan, Muslims in India have grown 300 % over the last seventy years. Over the last two decades Kashmir cleansed out its Hindus and Jammu has seen its Muslim section flourish and grow. Before their ejection lock, stock and barrel, in the tumult of 1990, the previous decades of independence had subjected the Hindus of Kashmir to a silent exile from the Valley. This is as discomforting a scenario as it is an eventual inevitability.
Return of the Exiled Kashmiris to their land cannot be contemplated without  including this harsh psychological backdrop. A quarter century ago, Kashmir was a seething cauldron where the Home Minister of India had to negotiate for his daughter and the CM in chair had to abdicate. Today it can be admitted that then, the writ of the democratic Government – from Governor to DM to SHO’s – ran only till their office-gates. Beyond that there were Latrams, Maliks, Dars, Sheikhs even Mastguls, with rifles slung over their fyarans, ruling all. Two essential points that are often not listed here are that the transformation from a normal to mujaahidi Kashmir took just two months and four days – Hamid Sheikh’s arrest to Farooq’s resignation.
The second is that the marauders – now euphemized as militants – had total support of the Kashmiri Muslims. That ensured the success of their operation, for four years. Then, the army overcame the choas. These twin operationals – quick passage and full support – have been seen many times since – Shri Amarnathji agitation, ragado or stone-pelting, beef ban and now the Lashkar-e-Islam killings. Somehow they have not endured for long, the longest being the three months of ragddo, but never bet on that. That is the operational impediment in the Return of Exiled Kashmiris.
The apprehensions of the Exiled Kashmiris arise from these psychological and operational factors. Let there be no ambiguity about the fact that only the Hindus of Kashmir stand exiled today, as the Muslim migrants are a sheer technicality and that of Sikhs anything but meagre. Most of the exiled have seen that the assurances ‘welcomes’, ‘normalcy’ and ‘security’ are not worth much. When the ‘call’ comes, the ‘security’ becomes first uncertainty if not a threat. The Exiled cannot be faulted for refusing to Return to that uncertainty, which may erupt on as little as HM killing LeI gets pasted on army or a Navid getting nabbed and naming his accomplices brings action. Return must ensure Retention, with freedom of thought and action. The previous PM, though generous in his then rehabilitation package, was led to disregard this crucial element in Return of the natives to Kashmir. The package, which evoked red-envy in some people, failed to provide for Retention of the natives of Kashmir in their land and fell through.
When President Kalam visited the statein 2004 he was told that Return was an issue of translocation, shifting the exiled from Jammu to Kashmir. Though he appreciated the real concerns when told of them, the official jottings do not appear to have recorded that. Else, the ‘translocation’ scheme would not have been sprung upon the unsuspecting exiled again. Nor do the roots of exile appear to have registered with the new Government. That lack of appreciation, surfaced with the allocation of 500-cr for Return by the Finance Minister, soon after taking over. That announcement was not only a trashing of the Manmohan Package, but an actual betrayal by fracturing the Return of the Exiled community into ‘those who will’. When told of objections, he let it lie low, but apparently the ‘translocation’ thesis has not been given up. There was lip service, with even the President’s address speaking of the return of the natives of Kashmir, but little appreciation of the ground reality and concerns. The latest reports on the issue, appearing in press, tell that the neither the thinking nor plans  of translocation have been abandoned. Hot air, scientist tell, stays in high reaches!
The ground reality is that Return can be talked only when the causes of the exile are investigated and understood. How and why could ‘a handful of stray youth’ make the huge majority to exile a small minority? Only after that comprehension can there be an adequate appreciation of why the exiled Kashmiris want to Return only to a single place, and in one body. Rehab, Houses, employment and all other things come after that. Confusing the primary with the secondary, tinkering with the vital issue of the right of the aborigines or seeking to fracture them, is not the way to go about the Return of the natives to Kashmir. Nor does it do any justice to their deprivation and suffering.


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