Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits; A big joke

By K.N. Pandita

Some days ago, the deputy leader of opposition, V.K. Malhotra raised the question of Kahmiri Pandits in the Parliament. He wanted to know the policy of the UPA government on the rehabilitation of the Pandits. The questions which he posed were only peripheral and did not touch on the core of the issue.

The reply of the Home Minister to his questions was equally vague and peripheral. No member of the house tried to drag the debate and go to the bottom of the issue involved.

A matter of human rights, a matter of grave national importance and a matter that concerns the very future of our secular-democratic arrangement has been trivialized and politicized. It is sad indeed.
Our politicians including senior and seasoned ones can also talk loosely and think loosely. Do they understand the implications of the word “rehabilitation” when used in the context of exiled Kashmiri Pandit community? When they talk of “peaceful coexistence” among various communities, do they understand what it implies for 400,000 Hindus expelled from their thousands of years old place of birth?

Do they realize what it means to ethnically cleanse a region of India of a religious minority? Do they understand what the extirpation of an entire religious minority means in the only Muslim majority state among 27 states of the Indian Union? Do they understand what it means to have a special status and reconcile to a theocratic state for such a state and still claim it to be the “integral part of secular India?”

The Pandits are paraded for “rehabilitation in their original homes”. Does any one care to ask why the Pandits were turned out of Kashmir valley and who was the agency that worked it out? And when “rehabilitation” is the mantra, do they assure that the agencies that engineered the extirpation of the Pandits are no more active? And if they are no more active in Kashmir, what is the need for the Indian government to locate nearly a million – strong and highly equipped army in a valley just 80 miles long and 35 miles wide?

Do our politicians and parliamentarians ever raise a question in the parliament about what the Kashmir insurgency leadership says about the “return and rehabilitation” of the Pandits from time to time? The moderate Hurriyat (Omar faction) says that each returning Kashmiri Pandit should bring with him a militant freed from Indian prisons failing which he will not be allowed to return to the valley. The extremist Hurriyat (Geelani faction) says that the Pandits will come back only when they follow the sharia rules and accept to live Islamic style of life. In a recent and a rare visit to a refugee camp in Jammu, NC patron Dr. Farooq Abdullah said that the Pandits cannot return to the valley as they cannot be protected and secured against the threats from the Islamists. Why then the trumpeting of their “rehabilitation”.
The exiled and extirpated Pandits are given the nomenclature of “Kashmiri Migrants”. This is to secularize “migration”. The Pandits are not called even “Pandit Migrants”. The Pandits are a pariah and not at all a vote bank; hence they have to be”secularized”.

The Pandits approached the National Human Rights Commission of India to declare them Internally Displayed Persons in accordance with the criteria laid down in he Charter of the UN Human Rights Commission to which India is a signatory. The NHRC turned it down evidently on political considerations. The National Commission for Minorities does not include Pandits in the list of its Indian minorities arguing that the Pandits are part of larger Indian Hindu majority. This is despite the fact that the Pandits fighting their cause at the UNHRC, managed to introduce “reverse minority” in official definition of Minorities. But when Pandits invite the attention of Indian law makers and law dispensers to this and the special clause for J&K in the Indian Constitution, they turn their faces away.

The Indian government is talking to Pakistan on all bilateral disputes “including Kashmir”. That is the latest rhetoric exuded by Indian leadership day in and day out. It means they concede that Kashmir is a disputed territory. When it is so then the Pandits are international refugees not only IDPs. New Delhi cannot refuse international aid to them and the Indian passport is no more valid for them. They have been “ethnically cleansed from Kashmir” says the report of the Indian government to the visiting International Commission of Jurists in 1994.

The Pandits brought before the Indian National Human Rights Commission the question of their “genocide” with supportive documentation. Nearly 2000 of them were gunned down by the fundamentalists-terrorists in Kashmir in 1990 and onwards. The Pandits also brought five cases of mass killing of their community members from 1990 till date at various places in Kashmir. In its verdict, the NHRC contented itself with “near genocide” without identifying those who committed it and without suggesting any reprisals or remunerations. It was a non-committal judgment doing no harm to the government, no punishment to the culprits and no good to the Pandits. The issue has been politicized.

The Pandits demand a Homeland meaning a specific centrally administered area to the south of Kashmir where they would settle down in concentration. No national government or state government, no national political parity, no think-tank at the Home Ministry and no politician with a vision was even prepared to talk about what the Pandits were saying. The national press played it down; adversaries labeled the Pandits as anti-national, anti-India, desirous of fragmenting India, pro-Pakistan and the rest of it. On the floor of the parliament, the then NDA government Home Minister L.K.Advani declared that the Pandits would never be given a Homeland. He did not suggest an alternative and just wanted to please the Muslims.

The Pandits are no political party’s vote bank as they are numerically insignificant and widely dispersed a group with no political weight or economic clout. To the Muslim rulers of Kashmir they are the “agents” of India as Sheikh Abdullah — Nehru’s secularist Kashmir hero — paints them in his biography, and to the New Delhi Sultans they are suspect because they are “Kashmiris” and not Indians. Thus he community is lost between the devil and the deep sea.

The joke of their “rehabilitation” seems unphased.

(The writer is he former Director Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University)

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