By K.N. Pandita
Nomination of a displaced Hindu (Pandit) from the valley as Member Legislative Council (MLC) of J&K has its own significance. It is different from nominations of a valley minority member in the upper house during previous regimes. The difference lies firstly in the incumbent viz. Shri Surinder Mohan Ambardar, coming from grassroots level of the minority community, and secondly, nominated by a party that is only partner in the government, and unlike previous regimes, does not enjoy outright numerical majority in the Assembly to rule the roost.
It is for the first time that BJP has nominated a displaced member of Kashmiri Hindu minority to the upper house. In other words, one may say that this is the first and maiden attempt by any political party of national or regional standing to concede the right of Kashmir valley Hindu minority community to political space in the State. Apart from the fact that BJP is the ruling party at the Centre, the more significant aspect is that BJP is a national level party. Recognition of the claim of Kashmir Hindu minority to political space is in itself a very significant path breaking event on the whole. It opens a window on the beleaguered community from where it can have a bird’s eye view of what lies ahead.
The question is not what the nominated member can precisely do for the displaced community now in a state of distress. The issue of the displaced minority community is intricately linked to the core of Kashmir issue. It has made the prospect of their return and rehabilitation highly contentious and sensitive. To expect a nominated member of the Upper House to come out with a cut and dried formula of resolving rehabilitation issue of the displaced community is unrealistic.
However, as I said, he comes from the grassroots level; he is a migrant; he has lived in camps and he has worked shoulder to shoulder with his community members in their hour of suffering, exile and destitution.
BJP has given an opening to the displaced community to voice their woes, disappointments, hopes and expectations in the house of people’s representatives. It is the legislature, the elected representatives of the people of the State to hear him and come out with a solution of the problems which the displaced community is made to face. He is not expected to make any formula and module, no. A formula or module must come from the House. All that he can do is to respond to the House with feedback which he gets from the community. In this way, a platform will be available for continuing a dialogue in an atmosphere of sobriety and seriousness taking into account the entire spectrum of the rise of armed insurgency, extirpation of the minority and now its return and restitution.
Apart from that, nomination of a member from grassroots level of the displaced community can be instrumental in psychological reintegration of the community in the broader Kashmir milieu after a long gap of estrangement vitiated more by plethora of suspicions, allegations and counter allegations. He could serve the lynchpin in inter-community dialogue in which humanism and not petty politics is the guiding principle.
Whatever will be the contours of restitution of displaced minority community back in the valley, the obvious condition is that people have to live as social entities in an environ of mutual trust and understanding. For restoration of trust, multi-dimensional mechanism has to be pressed into service. We will need to create instruments of accessibility.
Very thin dispersal of the Pandit community in the valley in pre-militancy era was a mixed phenomenon of a boon and a curse. The advantage was the voluntary generation of social acceptability among the stakeholders whereas the disadvantage was the bulldozing of their political identity by the road roller of democratic dispensation.
Restitution of the Pandits in the valley will open up the question of their political empowerment and recognition of their specific identity. This thinking is rooted, albeit very subtly, in the essence of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Pragmatism of non-recognition of any minority group on religious, linguistic, cultural and ethnic count by the Constitution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir fails to respond to social dynamics of contemporary India as well as the very spirit of Article 370
Constitutional safeguards for specific groups are accepted as dependable source of confidence building mechanism. These safeguards come in a variety of forms and can be moulded to fit in the scheme of things. This is a subject for cool and considerate deliberation of our law makers. It is here where the voice of the grassroots legislator of the minority community has to be eloquently persuasive
Who does not know that a minority group of whatever denomination is somewhat handicapped in a democratic arrangement where power lies in numbers? Nevertheless, nationalism demands that majority carries the minority with it through persuasion and not coercion or show of numbers when national cause is at stake. It is possible that at times serious difference of views becomes an irritant. These are the occasions when responsible political leadership assumes the role of buffer and unleashes its potential to bring about rapprochement of sorts. The minority community needs to learn providing space to the buffer to play its role.
I look at Surinder Mohan Ambardar’s induction into practical politics as the opening of a window on the displaced community to cast a glance on the political scenario of very complex and confusing nature. They need acclimatization to this panorama, which may appear to them a combination of the sublime and the ridicule. With him begins our political journey in realpolitik. We should also remember that he owes equally to the entire people of the State and the party that has charged him with onerous duty of putting straight the record of Kashmiri Pandit saga in the annals of history of this country. We hope that his presence in the House of Law Makers reverses the traditional thinking of considering the Pandits as mere trust (amaanat) and not equal partners in constructing Naya Kashmir. It has to be a break through.