Package for the Pandits

By K.N. Pandita

Union Minister of State for Home, Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha that a “package of 1,618 crore rupees was sanctioned for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants in the valley in 2008. But so far no family has returned.” He did not elaborate why no Pandit returned. He did mention about 22.89 crores spent on non-existent transit camps but sidetracked touching on a big joke with Pandits viz. a 400-crore scam called Jagati habitat.

This amusing statement laced with political undertones is devoid of humanistic component. Erroneously or deliberately called “PM’s package for Kashmiri Pandits”, it is drafted in extraordinarily dubious turn of phrases that can be, and actually have been, interpreted subjectively by operational agencies.  

The term “migrant” makes no differentiation between a casual peddler of Kashmir curios outside the state and an internally displaced person, especially when the former has contrived formal registration as migrant. When studied closely word by word and phrase by phrase, the package, wrapped in subtle jargon, makes out no fewer than four categories, other than the Pandits, of affected people as claimants to PM’s largesse. To call it a “package for the Pandit migrants” as the Parliament was told, is regrettably misleading. For example, migrants of 1947 from present PoK, left to  languish in their misery for six decades in the past despite protests and supplications, have been bracketed with the internally displaced persons from Kashmir and made partner to the package. They are victims of partition and deserve treatment at par with millions of other migrants. But Kashmiri Pandits are victims of ethnic cleansing in the secular and democratic Indian Union of which J&K is an integral part. Till the eruption of armed insurgency in Kashmir, they were showcased as symbols of India’s secularism. Likewise, the widows of the victims of violence are also categorized as a group entitled to a share in PM’s Package. We sympathize with them but Kashmir civil society claims that more than a hundred thousand people were killed in terrorist violence (which includes counter violence) in the valley. As such the widows of a hundred thousand victims are entitled to a share of what is trumpeted as “Package for Pandits.”  The package does not speak of safety and security of the returnees; not of their political empowerment and minority rights; not of protection and preservation of their religious places, shrines and properties; not of mechanism for goodwill of majority community which is the sheet anchor of a minority’s safety. It does not speak of their concentrated rehabilitation as psychological support and it does not speak of ensuring their livelihood after rehabilitation. The State government has devised machinations that further dilute whatever small incentives could be culled by the displaced community from the package. It has framed ridiculous and illegal service rules for the Pandit recruits to government jobs. In a bizarre decision, the State government has defined the internal migrants from border areas with twin criterion of “migrants and internally displaced persons within Kashmir valley” and made them a claimant to relief and rehabilitation package. There should be no objection to providing them relief and support but the point is that the State never recognized Kashmiri Pandit minority as “Internally Displaced Persons” in accordance with the definition given in the UN Charter of Human Rights. Even the National Human Rights Commission is reluctant to allow the legal and rightful nomenclature to the community. The Home Ministry should put the record straight.

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