Return of the native

By K.N. Pandita

Apparently central government is seized of the question of return and rehabilitation of displaced Hindu minority community in Kashmir valley. This issue is included in BJP’s election manifesto.

The President mentioned it in his address to the maiden session of the new parliament.

Some sections of print media highlighted the story though others completely neglected it.

Many organizations of displaced community reacted to the tell-tale stories of print media. They reiterated their respective patent stands.

Reportedly, delegates from some Pandit organizations called on the Home Ministry and exchanged ideas. Contents of their interaction are not known, nor their representative profile.

Hind sight shows that during its two successive tenures, Congress government never took the question of return and rehabilitation seriously although it was partner in ruling coalition in the state. It remained non-committal on temple bill.

The Prime Minister’s Package of 2008 brazenly hoodwinked the displaced community by subtly circumventing the most essential dimension of the subject viz. political, and confined only to truncated material/financial aspect.

Taking cue from Congress government’s nonchalance, the State government further watered down the package to the extent of trivializing it. Adept in playing divisive politics, the State government handpicked a small group of spineless persons in the name of representatives of the community, and making them scapegoat, tried to obtain legitimacy to its casual and laid-back treatment of the displaced community.

The team interlocutors, who ate and drank to heart’s content in Kashmir for nearly two years, produced a report at the end of the day that was acceptable to none of the stakeholders. Even the then Home Minister, who was euphoric at one stage, just consigned the report to its burial place after realizing his gross ignorance of the intricacies and complexities of Kashmir issue.

In regard to return and rehabilitation of the displaced community, the team was as vague and unclear as in the case of most of the vital aspects of Kashmir issue.

I do not dismiss the possibility of BJP leadership having studied in depth the complexity of Kashmir issue as well as the return and rehabilitating of the displaced religious minority. Consequently, I am disposed to believe that it has clear understanding of the harsh truth that return and rehabilitation of the religious minority back in the valley is inextricably linked to the solution of Kashmir issue, which the Kashmir mainstream leadership has been demanding without relent.

As such, any attempt of solving the issue of exiled community before solving the political issue of Kashmir is putting the cart before the horse. Does return of the displaced persons in any way solve Kashmir issue or stop Pakistani armed infiltrators from receiving guest mujahidin treatment from local hosts or minimize anti-India rage? None of these.

Kashmir Valley has moved away from its more than six century old socio-cultural construct. India and Pakistan, both are now only peripheral to its social dynamics; today predominant impact is from Saudi Arabia. It is the cultural colony of Saudi.

In the larger political landscape of the region, the rise of Sunni Wahhabi power in the Middle East and the fierce struggle between vested interests reflected through state power and traditional conservatism in Af-Pak region, Kashmir Valley has a tenuous position. It has no vitality to stand as buffer between the conflating ideologies.

Modi government should understand that Islam has clearly stated how to treat religious minorities in an Islamic state. Whatever the status of Indian democracy and secularism, Kashmir valley will look at and react to it from purely Islamic prism.

We would advise the Union government to look right and left before raking up the volatile issue of return and rehabilitation of the Pandits in Kashmir.

The State government is reported to have added the rehabilitation formula to the notorious Prime Minister’s Package. Again, it has cleverly circumvented the political dimension of the issue.

And now if the Union government insists on focusing on political dimension of the issue, that dimension cannot be genuine and valid if its formulation ignores geo-strategic realities in the Middle East, Af-Pak, Iran and Western China (Xingjian). Af-Pak, almost contiguous to Kashmir, is the Waterloo where vested interest is waging a war against the last bastion of conservatism. Iraq political scenario is bound to light the flames of fourteen centuries old sectarian strife. Now there will be what Saddam Husain called the “mother of all wars”. Iran, like Kashmir, is a sordid case of contradicting identities.

Will this restive part of Asian continent suck in world powers and become the harbinger of a new message in Asian history? We are running out of time.

In final analysis the gimmicks of the State government in throwing hints of return module for the displaced Pandits is a subtle challenge to the Modi government. In diplomatic language it conveys to New Delhi that returning natives will not have more than a fringe admissible to them. Their existence as negligible political counterweight in pin-hole space in the valley will never be compromised nor will they ever enjoy any special status in the Constitutional frame of the J&K State, something that would mean balancing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

The return and rehabilitation module prepared by the State Government eloquently speaks of government’s gratuitous response to prodding from New Delhi. In simpler phraseology it is called politicizing a human issue.

This is the time that prompts the displaced community to seek justice from all sources including international community. The fundamentals of return and restitution of a displaced community in hostile environs are explicitly set forth by the UN Human Rights Council. If the Union and the State government are open enough to accept these fundamentals as convergence point, the displaced community will consider it a step in right direction. In that case the first thing to do is to consign the Prime Minister’s Package 2008 to flames. That should be the fate of shameful documents.

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