Initiate reconciliation in Kashmir

By K.N. Pandita

For the first time, a half-hearted attempt has been made by the State government to casually address the issue of internally displaced persons from the valley.

The finance minister had a cryptic paragraph in his budget speech before the legislative assembly on 10 August 2009. For “our Kahmiri Pandit brothers and sisters”, he promised fifteen thousand jobs, and semblance of medical facility for the families whose head is in government service.

According to a rough estimate, there were about eleven thousand Pandit employees in the state government at the time of their exodus in 1990. The number has come down to less than two thousand by now, the rest having retired and new recruitments a far off cry. 

The health care scheme announced by the finance minister caters to just 5 % of the total number of families involved.  

The 15,000 jobs on the anvil have not been classified. From past experience, presumably bulk of these could be as policemen. In the past, and once again, the Pandits have expressed convincing reservation in declining jobs in lower cadres of police department. The nature of job will expose them to great risk of internal sabotage as long as militancy ranges in the state. If the government plans to raise a couple of battalions exclusively of Kashmiri Hindus, as has been done in the case of Gujjars., it carries some meaning.
 
Secondly, displaced persons with graduation or above qualifications would naturally expect a job commensurate with their academic qualifications. If the government had also tabled the break up of its contemplated fifteen thousand jobs, this would have been in fitness of things.

Thirdly, there is no word about physical security to the Pandits who could be posted to any corner of the valley after they are appointed. It is not possible for the government to provide individual security to all citizens. That never happens. But it should be possible to provide collective security. That means their concentrated habitation. But the government has not taken up that aspect of the issue. May be the matter is under its consideration.

Neither the State nor the Union government has come out with a statement that militancy has been finally controlled or eliminated in the valley. There are occasional reports from various quarters, despite contradictions that follow in close steps that militancy has come down to a low level. But when and where the militants might strike, is anybody’s guess.

An important aspect of return of the small religious minority to their place of origin in the valley is the general and golden principle of goodwill of the majority people. No minority can survive in absence of that vital pre-requisite. Unfortunately, at the moment the goodwill of the majority is somewhat lacking for various reasons. Many misunderstandings have been created and many baseless things have been floated to widen the gulf between the two communities.

The finance minister should have addressed that part of the issue as well. It is the duty of all mainstream political parties especially the ruling coalition to generate goodwill among the majority community for their compatriots. This should have been the agenda of national mainstream parties when they issued manifestoes for assembly elections. But unfortunately that was not the case. Nevertheless, this is an unavoidable pre-requisite and sooner or later mainstream political parties will have to undertake a mission of bringing the two communities together.

Nevertheless, it is a welcome step that the state government has, for the first time, taken the initiative to address the issue of internally displaced persons seriously. We should also understand the compulsions of the government in view of prevailing political climate in the state and the ground situation in the region. Whatever the causes for the rise of militancy in the valley in 1990, there seems a realization in the government that it owes responsibility of addressing the problem of internal displacements from the valley.

The offer of fifteen thousand jobs should not be spurned notwithstanding the fact that their classification remains to be known. We must remember that there are not hundreds but thousands of displaced Pandit families in various camps and habitats in Jammu region and those who are still residing in the valley who are living a life of below poverty line. There are thousands of our youth who are unemployed and have come almost to a point of frustration. It is desirable that they move forward to grab the jobs offered and then try for improving life. A negative attitude is not going to help. We should understand the implications of global financial meltdown and countrywide problem of food scarcity and rising prices.

It has also to be understood that overall security arrangements have been immensely improved and tightened by the government in comparison to early days of the rise of militancy. Kashmiri Pandit youth living in exile should try to inculcate a strong sense of belonging to the place of their origin. This would help them make their presence in the environment of the valley more conducive.

It has also to be realized that when we speak of the essential pre-requisite of goodwill of the majority, the minority, too, needs to show its intention for reconciliation. Fortunately, the minority community of Pandits has the resilience and flexibility to adjust to the environments. One step taken by them on the path of reconciliation will hopefully induce the majority community to move two or even three steps. A meeting point should not be elusive.

Again for this changed stance for reconciliation, it is better it people to people interaction is initiated leaving little for the government to do in bilateral relations. There are miscreants and villains in both communities not happy with the reconciliation programme. They float false rumours and canards to widen the gulf between the two. Sensible people should not be led astray by false propaganda.

Finally, the government should facilitate bilateral interaction between the groups of two communities. A united forum of intellectuals, dedicated activists and people with a futuristic vision should be formed, which will undertake regular and sustained process of interaction. Facilities like transport, lodging, communication and multilateral liaisoning are the areas which the government can and should provide. The first part of business is to dispel the vicious atmosphere, an atmosphere of suspicions, doubts and apprehensions. Those already in the process can help the reconciliation programme proceed smoothly, be they the organizations or individuals and groups.

Lastly a crucial role remains to be performed by the print and electronic media. It is gratifying that our State-based print media has always been non-partisan and pro-reconciliation. It can intensify its role by pushing all concerned to move steadily but definitely along the path of visionary national building. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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