By K.N. Pandita
Prime Minister’s Kashmir package is for “relief and rehabilitation” and not only for “rehabilitation”. Recipients are distributed into three categories. (a) Kashmiri Pandit Migrants (b) Refugees, and (c) Victims of terrorist violence in J&K.
It is not clear what is the share for “relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in category (a) above out of a total package if Rs. 16180.40 crores.
Term “refugee” has not been defined. Are they the people who sought refuge within the territory of the state following tribal invasion in 1947 or are they war affected people of 1962, 1971 and 1998-99 (Kargil war)?
Does the category include those citizens of the state who had to leave the State intermittently from 1947 to 1990 owing to various reasons including discrimination and denial or rights?
“Victims of terrorist violence” mentioned in the package is a vague term. It can be interpreted as victims of terrorism in Kashmir Valley only. What is the difference between a “migrant”, “refugee” and a “victim of terrorism?” These categories need to be defined and identified with as much clarity as is possible.
Are those who suffered at the hands of security forces also to be included in the category of “victims of violence”? If yes, than almost all the people of the state and not only of any particular region are to be brought within fold. After all it is the entire population of the state that suffered economically, mentally and culturally.
The package says, “Government is concerned about the condition of widows and orphans – the victims of militancy related violence. State government would work out a package after their rehabilitation.” Close examination shows that actually the government has created a fourth category — that of the widows and orphans of militancy related violence. According to the militants and separatists, most of these persons are the victims of high handedness of security forces. Obviously, the funds needed for the rehabilitation of this category will be provided by the government. At the end of the day the funding for this category will also come from the same source meaning PM’s 1618.40 crores package. As such there are actually not three but four stakeholders for the package.
PM’s package does not indicate allocations for each category. It means the State government is given a free hand to make the allocations. The PM’s package clearly states that “most of the relief was for Kashmiri Pandit migrants.” This view does not find even the smallest expression in the notification. It was expected that the government would announce the chunk of the package that would go to the Kashmiri Pandit migrants in the light of PM’s announcement.
Coming to the notification issued by the state government setting forth rules for the recruitment drive under the Prime Minister’s package, a few points need to be brought under focus.
The PM’s package may be ambiguous in many of its parts but it is very clear and unambiguous about six thousand jobs to be provided to unemployed Kashmiri migrants. No other category is supposed to share these jobs. But the notification issued by the state government recently dilutes the stipulation.
From what one understands from the language of the notification, recruitment of KP candidates has been made very complicated and parochial in character. For example, the selectee are asked to report in the valley, and produce various documents in addition to making an agreement that “they will serve in the valley against the posts on which appointed and at a place where posted.” No such conditions are imposed on fresh recruits to government jobs. Where is the need to forge new rules mostly arbitrary and biased in the case of Kashmir Pandit migrant recruits?
Vacancies have been notified department–wise and on regional level. Why should the rule prescribe a selectee to serve only in the valley when he or she can be adjusted at a post in any one of the three regions? Binding a selectee to the Valley through a forced agreement is denial of primary human right viz. freedom of movement. This rule, if challenged in a court of law, will certainly be declared untenable.
The rule prescribes in very clear terms that a candidate appointed has to serve in the valley and in case of leaving the valley his services will be terminated. This again has a serious legal flaw. The government nowhere feels it necessary to assure the selectee that his security and safety is its responsibility. The law cannot uphold this flimsy rule as the valley is still faced with the threat of militancy. A secular democratic government does not have the moral authority of demanding duties from its citizens without making a firm commitment of providing them security of life and property.
The notification states, “All the migrants registered with the Relief Commissioner, including the internally displaced migrants (within the valley) shall be eligible for applying for appointment against these posts”.
This is a bizarre piece of ruling. The State has given a new meaning to the term “internally displaced persons” first by labeling them as “migrant” as well as “internally displaced person”, which by all norms of definition are two separate categories. In order to further specify government’s thrust the conditional phrase “within the valley” has been suffixed to internally displaced migrants. The purpose of clubbing the two statuses is obviously to make such persons entitled to maximum benefits of relief and rehabilitation.
Under international law a migrant is one who migrates out of his or her free will choosing his own convenient time for migration and destination spot. But an internally displaced person is one who has been forced by man or nature- made calamity to abandon his home and hearth and seek shelter somewhere else in the state but not cross the international border. If one who was forced to move away from his home owing to the threat to his life is an “internally displaced person” as he has not left the state and the country, this precisely applies to a Kashmir Pandit. Why then has the government been calling them “migrants” and not “internally displaced persons”. Conversely, if they are called migrants because they left their home and hearth, then those who moved away from their home within the valley are also migrants and not internally displaced persons. What makes the government bestow two statuses on them? There must be a method in distorting standardized definition of the two categories.
Ever since their extirpation from the valley, Kashmiri Pandits have been approaching and arguing with the state and central government to formally recognize their status as IDPs in terms of the stipulations of the UN Charter on Human Rights but without success. This is not only blatant discrimination but also a fraud on Kashmiri Pundits. I don’t think law will allow double interpretation for one proposition. With this notification in his hand, a person declared internally displaced by the State government can easily seek asylum in a foreign country. Besides, the dichotomy becomes more expressive when a state takes its decision to declare a segment of its citizenry as IDPs while rejecting the same to another segment under identical conditions. Moreover who has the authority to declare a group IDP’? Does it fall within the jurisdiction of a State of the Union Government?
Another aspect of this rule is that the “internally displayed migrants (within the valley) become shareholders in 3000 out of 6000 jobs that are promised in the package. Nobody knows the number of “internally displaced migrants (within the valley)”; it has never been disclosed nor the number of “migrants” from the valley other than Kashmir Pandits. This has remained a closely guarded secret with the government. Nobody should have any objection to providing jobs to as many unemployed youth in the valley as is possible but then the package should not be projected and trumpeted as a great favour to the Kashmiri Pandit migrants.
The notification is overloaded with conditionalities for “migrant” candidates like “registered migrants, “genuine migrants”, “bonafide migrants” and “authentication of migrant status” etc. It seems to be a ploy to find one or the other pretext for disqualifying as many “migrant” candidates as is possible and make space for “internally displaced migrants within the valley”. Producing a genuine migrant card issued by the Relief Commissioner should be enough to establish an applicant’s credentials. Incidentally, there is no indication of relaxing upper age limit in the case of KP migrants knowing that most of them are over-aged for normal recruitment in government service. Relaxation of upper age limit should have been part of the notification and module for recruitment of Kashmiri Pandit migrants. Everybody knows that migrant youth have crossed the age limit because of unemployment. The migrants have been demanding relaxation order for many years.
The rule, according to the notification under discussion is that the selectee will have to serve in the valley. and in case he or she leaves the valley, his/her services will be terminated. This is a harsh rule, which may not stand the test of legality. If the government speaks of the duties of a fresh employee it should also commit itself to the security, law and order of the state. Everybody knows that Kashmir Valley is still infested with insurgents. Sill gunshots are fired and killings and attacks take place. A secular democratic government is bound to provide security to its citizens while desiring them to perfume their duty. The Pandits have faced ethnic cleansing which government failed to stop. The government cannot behave in an arbitrary manner and the Pandits will not be re-fouled. It has legal implications.
It is for the government of the state as well as at the centre to see to it that communal, parochial or regional slant is not given to the spirit of the package. which the Prime Minister has sanctioned in good faith for all sufferers in Kashmir but more specifically in his own words to the small religious minority of the State as they have become the victim of ethnic cleansing and refugees in their own country.
Unfortunately the rules of employment of Kashmiri Pandit migrants notified by the government seem to be dismally falling short of humanistic norms norms. This tendency needs to be avoided. A law has to emanate from a sense of humanistic approach to problems and situations whether the affected people are internally displaced or not. That is the fundamental principle of a welfare state. It is therefore hoped that the government will change its attitude radically and not behave in an arbitrary manner in matters of great sensitivity.