Issue of internal displacement

By K.N. Pandita

Rajya Sabha Committee on Home Affairs has released its 169th Report. It cautions Home Ministry against complacence as terror camps are still intact on the other side of the border.

The report specifically deals with the case of displaced persons from Kashmir Valley. This is something rare and unusual. Nothing of the sort happened ever since their exodus from the valley in 1990.  

After the holocaust of partition of 1947, exodus of valley minority is the first major mass migration that happened in the country owing to religious intolerance. More than the pain and suffering that exodus brings in train is the torment of ethnic cleansing taking place in the backdrop of State’s accession to the Indian Union in 1947 primarily on the premise of secular democratic dispensation pronounced by the Indian Constitution. It failed the Pandit minority; it collapsed in the lone state of the Indian Union with Hindu minority.

Leadership of Indian Union has had little rather no experience of dealing with a situation of radicalised armed insurgency that shaped in Kashmir Valley onwards of 1980 and culminated in the extirpation of the minority community a decade later. The happening shattered leadership’s romanticism of Kashmir as the symbol of Indian secularism. Overtaken by a stupor of sorts, it failed to formulate statesmanlike policy to combat the threat to the very concept of Indian State. An entire minority community of three hundred thousand people was on the roadside, hundreds of miles away from their homes.

Indian government feared the truth of calling them Internally Displaced Persons, the standard nomenclature adopted by the Working Group on IDPs of the UN Human Rights Council. Instead, it calls them “migrants’. How sadistic? The State and the Union government carefully avoided ordering judicial enquiry into the rise of armed insurgency, emergence of radicalism and extirpation of a religious minority after insurgents inflicted fatalities on them. They have no compulsion to do so because the affected community being in dispersal and insignificant in numbers is nobody’s vote bank. The paltry relief given to a few of them by the union government through the wobbled state administrative channel is to cover up its total failure of providing security of life and property to them under the Constitution of India.

Return and restitution in their homeland has never been the narrative of either the union or the state government as it does not affect the course of events for mainstream political parties. In 2008 the Prime Minister announced a 1618-crore package erroneously called ‘Package for Pandit Migrants’. Pandit organizations highlighted the seamy side of the package asserting that at least four categories of affected people other than the Pandits would be the prospective recipients of PM’s largesse. How could it be labelled Pandit Package? But the wilful disregard one least expected from the high office of the Prime Minister is that the package deviously circumvents the crucial political aspect of the return of the natives. The State government never focused on any comprehensive, overarching and practicable plan of return and restitution. The issue never attained priority with it.  At its sparingly held meetings, the Apex Committee of handpicked members from among the community deliberates on fringe and peripheral issues only, meticulously avoiding the core issue of political dimension of return and restitution. Talking about matters like their empowerment, representation, and minority rights etc. is nothing short of sacrilege to the committee. The PM’s Package envisioned 3000 appointments by the state government which never happened. And now the state government wants the centre to finance these vacancies. It seeks to absolve itself of all responsibilities, which normally it ought to shoulder. The Home Minister once said that nobody among the displaced persons returned to Kashmir despite the package offered by the PM.

No parliamentarian rose to ask the why of this phenomenon or the methodology of implementing the package? Conditionalities slammed by the state administration for displaced community candidates accepting the offer of government job are arbitrary, unconstitutional and unjust. It is treating the candidates as slaves and bonded labourers reducing human dignity to servility. The inmates of the Jagti habitat in Jammu are treated as outcast and untouchables. The habitat is gradually degenerating into a big ghetto.

The Home Affairs Committee appears to be unaware of a solid module of return propose by the displaced community. A plan given by the IDPs has to be realistic and viable. They cannot indulge in the luxury of suggesting truncated rehabilitation. In doing so, they have stuck to the basics of IDPs’ return laid down by the WG on IDPs at the UN Human Rights Council. They submitted consensual plan to various quarters including some mainstream political leaders in the state and at the centre. This is the Srinagar twin-city concept, and was also submitted to the Team Interlocutors, who have fully endorsed it in their revised report to the Home Ministry. The plan has been discussed and highlighted in the print media. The feedback was that nothing could be more sensible as it met the requirements of almost all stakeholders. The proposed twin-city in the proximity of old Srinagar will become the habitat of all internally displaced as well as any number of local families in need of rehabilitation. If 17,000 households uprooted from Dal Lake area could be rehabilitated in a new colony close to the city why should the twin-city plan not be adopted along same lines? It has to be a composite and inclusive twin-city under the name of Nov Srinagar (as suggested by the team interlocutors).

Now that the Committee has taken the lid off the can of worms, we would appeal to the state and the union government to give serious thought to the rehabilitation plan proposed by the displaced community and endorsed fully by the team interlocutors. The task before the government is to take a positive step in the direction of strengthening communal harmony and peaceful coexistence in Kashmir and simultaneously contribute to national solidarity. Internally displaced persons are determined to return to their homeland and become equal partners in building a prosperous Kashmir. The state and the central government should open channels of dialogue with responsible and matured representatives of the community who have given serious thought to a viable formula. This will set at rest all controversies and make things easier for the government. Instead of scratching the wounds and creating more bitterness, the government should work on positive note and make a new beginning.

Comments are closed.