By K.N. Pandita
President and Patron NC Minority Cell and MLC, Mr. Vijay Bakaya recently spoke to a group of his admirers. He pontificated that the PM’s employment package announced in early 2008 on the occasion of inauguration of Akhnoor Bridge was a “trend setter” for the return of the Pandits to their homes and hearths in the valley. He ridiculed those who he thought were not happy with the package. He is of opinion that “employment of 800 “migrants” will open the gate for permanent return of displaced Pandits to their homes and hearths in Valley by bringing the members of majority and minority community together.”
This is an interesting as well as amusing piece of news since it is a rare occasion for the official president and patron of NC Minority Cell to come out with his cryptic comment focused more on pleasing his party patriarchs than on the Cell he presides over. He is the President of NC Minority Cell. Does the constitution of the State, drafted, debated and passed by party majority to which he belongs, recognize any “minority” in the state? None, and much less a religious minority. There is not a single clause, a single sentence and a single phrase in the entire State Constitution in which anything is said about a minority, its definition, its criterion and its rights. Same is true about the historical speech of NC stalwart Sheikh Abdullah made in the LA when the constitution was passed. What the constitution repeatedly speaks about is “deprived people” and not “deprived groups”. The UN Human Rights Charter has struggled to lay down clear definition of a minority but without much success. That is the reason why it constituted the Working Group on Minorities which has been regularly updating the definition of a minority community. It is in one of its formal exercises that the Working Group included a new clause of definition as “reverse minority” and added “like Kashmiri Pandits” by way of elucidation. This stands formally documented with the UN Human Rights Commission. Therefore, before bolstering somebody as the “President and Patron of a Minority Cell”, it is logical that first the construct of the “minority” has to be recognized in all its dimensions. This leads us to the exchange of views and correspondence between the activists of minority-concept for the State including the Pandits, and the National Minority Commission on the issue of the Union Government granting recognition to the Pandits as a “minority” community. Despite strong recommendation, verbal as well as written by the National Minority Commission to the Union Home Ministry and the then Chief Minster of the State, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, no action has been taken. The President of NC Minority Cell is something like a monarch without an inch of territory. It was strongly emphasized that in the light of Article 370 of the Constitution giving special status to J&K, recognition of religious, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities in the State was a logical conclusion and should not have been delayed. This never happened, and yet a gratuitous appellation has been charitied to an ex-bureaucrat to compensate him for denying him a berth on the bandwagon of power. A ruling party loath to allow a seat in the Cabinet to the “President and Patron of its Minority Cell” can hardly claim to be dealing the religious minority with even-handed justice.
The second amusing part of “Patron’s” pontification is that according to him giving employment to under 800 persons in Class III-IV category and posting them through a forced agreement aginst their free will in remote rural areas of a state that is rife with active terrorism and rabid fanaticism will “open the gate for permanent return of displaced Pandits to their homes and hearths in Valley by bringing the members of majority and minority community together.” Did PM’s employment package stipulate a forced undertaking and never to ask for transfer? Did the package envisage easing their suffering or making them a prisoner? In a State where the Chief Minister rides a five kilometer distance from his residence to the SKICC (Centaur) in a helicopter avoiding road transport for security reasons, explains more than what one may say on the security scenario in the summer capital. The Patron of the Cell being a bureaucrat and not a politician by profession is unable to look at situations in historical perspective. An astute politician in his place would never link the return of the displaced persons to the lower jobs offered to the destitute in exile; he would link it to the goodwill of the majority community. And the majority community at the moment is already showing its annoyance at the government employing 800 displaced persons, forgetting that during past two decades no fewer than 8 lakh jobs of all ranks have been filled in the valley according to public statements of the ruling party ministers. The question is not return and rehabilitation of the displaced persons; the real question is the yawning gap between the percept and practice in a secular state. The President of the NC Minority Cell should have opened this important subject for most serious public debate through the aegis of his office, the relevant platform for such a debate. We want him to ride the horse and not just keep cleaning the stable.