Hurriyat (G) has reservations

By K.N. Pandita

Senior Hurriyat leader Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani has spoken his mind on the subject of return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the valley. He has threatened to launch mass agitation in Kashmir valley if “the Government of India does not drop its plan of rehabilitating the migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the safe zones.”  

Launching mass movement to stonewall return and rehabilitation of IDPs belonging to any religious minority in any part of the globe, to its native land is tantamount to violating the clauses of the UN Human Rights Charter. It is this very Charter which the Hurriyat factions persistently invoke to establish their case of “human rights violation of the people of Kashmir by the security forces.” And it is this very Charter which various NGOs invoke to orchestrate “violation of human rights of ordinary civilians by externally armed and sponsored militants in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The world body (UN), of which almost all Islamic countries are the designated members, will not back up any movement by a religious majority region aimed at expelling or preventing natives belonging to a religious minority from returning and getting rehabilitated in their homeland. By launching mass movement, international community in general and Kashmiri civil society in particular will raise eyebrow on the rationality of Geelani’s announcement.

Moreover, firstly, the Guidelines of the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Minorities, while conducting insightful discourse on the theme of return and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons anywhere in the world, has strongly recommended that, inter alia, when conditions are conducive for the return of the IDPs to their native places, they are free to choose the mode of rehabilitation and concerned states will respect their free will. This means that according to the UN Human Rights Charter and the International Law the option of rehabilitation in whatever form, viz. safe zones, clusters, original habitats, wholesome or in composite and inclusive township rests not with the government concerned but with the IDPs only. Guidelines specifically mention that “there will be no coercion or refoulment”. The concession of making a choice is offered to them because they have been made a victim of ethnic cleansing and or genocide.

Secondly, the Central Government nowhere figures in making any choice of the mode of rehabilitation of Kashmiri IDPs. It is a subject entirely dealt with by the State Government, and as a matter of routine, the State Government does keep the Centre informed on many critical state matters. The role of the Central Government in the matter of return and rehabilitation of Kashmir IDPs is limited to the package announced by the PM in 2008 in a public rally at Akhnoor Bridge. Even the financial support given in the case by the Central government is handled entirely by the State government.

PM’s package takes into account only the financial aspect of the rehabilitation project, and scrupulously suppresses its political, logistical and infrastructural dimensions. The Pandit IDPs strongly resented PM’s inequitable and politically motivated approach to a human problem of a hapless section of his own countrymen. Their grouse of PM ignoring political ramifications of IDPs return was reflected by the Pandits in a 20-page booklet titled A Critique of PM’s Package.

Thus if there is anything by the name of safe zones as stated by Geelani Sahib, it is only a figment of State government’s imagination, and there is no justification of bringing onus to the doorstep of the Union government which gleefully absolved itself of phenomenal moral responsibility in the matter.

The bitter truth is that neither the State nor the Central government has any well-considered, well-planned and seriously pragmatic plan of Kashmir IDP rehabilitation. Who wants to rehabilitate them and to what purpose? None, they are not a vote bank. Those at the helm of affairs know the reasons. Why should they open the lid of a tin of worms or scratch the plethora of lies scripted in the annals of contemporary history of Kashmir.

Geelani Sahib has had long association with the native Pandits. He knows them better than anybody else because he has lived and worked with them: he has shared the rain and sunshine of life with them.

But he has very unjustly hurt their feelings by associating their return and rehabilitation with the far-fetched figment of “changing the demographic complexion of Kashmir” a la Israeli tourists in his own words. Geelani Sahib knows that Israel via Saudi Arabia is much more close to Pakistan than any other country or group of people in the region.

Nonetheless, one should appreciate Geelani Sahib’s word that returning Pandits should go back to their original homes in the valley and not live in security zones. That would be ideal solution of the problem. Pandit IDPs should welcome it because firstly of the love and nostalgia of native birthplace, and the solace of living among age-old neighbours. Secondly, not to be ghettoized and segregated in isolated zones, a phenomenon that would make them more miserable than in the camps in Jammu or elsewhere. It is human psychology.

But this has to be preceded by generating culture of goodwill among the vast majority community of the valley in favour of returning natives even if the latter are on the wrong side of the fence according to him. This would solicit Geelani Sahib to launch a massive mass movement not for blocking the return of the IDPs but for creating goodwill for his compatriots. He could visit the urban as well as rural Kashmir and exhort local majority community members to voluntarily return the houses, shops, lands, orchards and other immoveable properties of the exiled people grabbed by them: he could tell them to voluntarily return the illegally occupied or vandalized premises of their shrines and temples and vacate occupancies wherever these have taken place: he could also tell them to commit themselves to communal harmony and security to the minority so that security personnel and army and paramilitaries are no more required to stand guard.

We know that given Geelani Sahib’s popularity and influence, he can work miracles to see Kashmir the real motherland (maej Kasheer) of all Kashmiris in letter and in spirit irrespective of their caste, creed and colour. By undertaking that mission, he would be responding to the principles of Islam about treating one’s neighbour better than one’s kith and kin.

However, knowing that a maximum number of residential houses of the IDPs have been either destroyed, sold in distress or occupied, making their home going rather a complicated issue, Geelani Sahib could take into account better options like a composite and inclusive twin-city of Srinagar that certainly meets the requirements of all stakeholders.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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