J&K: Hon’ble Prime Minister reveals his mind
by Romesh Raina on 29 Jun 2014 1 Comment

“Special efforts will be made to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits return to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood”. These are the words of the President of India (para 20 of address) to the joint sitting of Parliament. It is not only a statement of intent but reveals the basic thought process of the Government of India to address the issue of the prolonged exile of Kashmiri Pandits, and is a fundamental reversal of the earlier approach towards the issue. It implicitly acknowledges the need for new thinking and reason for hope to this beleaguered displaced community.


Significant political transformation has taken place in India as a fallout of unprecedented democratic awakening and activism. According centrality to the displaced Kashmiri Pandits’ issue at a speed not known so far is a response to this awakening. With it India opens a new chapter by including the issue of their resettlement in its policy, thus restoring the faith and confidence in the new dispensation.


This is rightly being read as our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s dynamic connect with the aspirational displaced people from Kashmir and his urge to reconstruct this post-conflict society at a faster pace. It is further reinforced by the statement made by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley that “all political groups in the valley support the idea of return and rehabilitation. You will have to wait for a few days to allow us to announce further policy measures.” Our sincere gratitude to our Prime Minister.


Give an expression of readiness


Today an honest introspection within the displaced community assumes more significance than ever before. The power of denial is engulfing these people. The conditions these displaced people are in now calls for wider understanding of the changing situation. These changes are visible as a result of a process and not an event. The events that led to the transformation of Indian polity hold some lessons for us. These have to be seen in terms of a series of changes which are occurring within the orbit of existing political structures and the re-settlement of the displaced Kashmiri people is central to it.


Unlike 1990, which left a trail of destruction in its wake, the current phase is marked by a changed version of politics in India. This has brought displaced Kashmiri Pandits to an important crossroads as the pressure of erosion, exclusion and irrelevance from the mainstream political life of Kashmir is writ large on their faces. The flame of being in displacement is there. In seeking answers we have to listen to the voices of changing political paradigms, as it can definitely be an opportunity to effect a perceptible shift towards strengthening our legitimate urges and claims as equal partners.


At the other end of the spectrum is the fact that we are compelled to fight our battles on the fields of the past and we shall soon become history if we don’t conduct the struggle of survival by responding and recognizing the political nature of our issues. Therefore careful usage of words and lexicons is important, lest they become instruments of neglect. Though it is a fact that we have been reluctant passive recipients of the changes thrust upon us, some harsh realities stare us in the face.

There are strong reasons to remain in the struggle; one is to ensure a just deal for us and another is to protect our political interests in Kashmir. Any further erosion of our core concerns in Kashmir will affect the Kashmiri Pandit question in its entirety. The significant milestone in any ethnic reconciliation is a powerful reaffirmation of its stakes in Kashmir as equal stake holders. The willingness to contribute towards its realization in a meaningful and productive manner is not lost yet, but the process of healing and rebuilding cannot wait any longer.


Address climate of insecurity


We are now entering a phase of understanding the new mood of connectivity and reconfigured politics of hope. But there is a scary feeling which reflects the fear, suspicion and insecurity of being exposed to the possibility of an organized attack yet again. In case of such an eventuality, its success will not be measured in terms of the casualties but the ability to strike targets of their choosing.


Let us go back in time and recall some mass murders of Kashmiri Pandits and other minorities in Kashmir at regular intervals, even after the exodus of the 1990’s - Sagrampora, Wandhama, Nadimarg, Telwani, Chitisingpora and so on. These are glaring instances of ominous things that have been happening with this community in a recurrent manner. They are indicative of the fact that everything is not hunky dory for them.


When confronted with the horrors of such mass murders, the road ahead seems tough. The threat perception is further compounded with the recent release of Al-Qaida’s Kashmir related video, which says “emulate Brothers in Syria and Iraq and wage a violent jehad against India.” The title of the video is – THE WAR CONTINUES – A STATEMENT ON KASHMIRI MUSLIMS. This video has a statement read by Asim Umar, a senior leader of Al-Qaida’s Pakistan cell, saying “Carvan of jihadists coming from Afghanistan to liberate Kashmir.”


Defence Minister Arun Jaitley admits this was a threat to Indian security. These are potent warning signals and to take them as rhetoric is to miss their appeal, reach and character. Therefore, greater attention has to be paid to –

1.   Building of CBMs

2.   Removing the Fear Psychosis

3.   Creation of a legitimate political space for displaced Kashmiri Pandits

4.   Making them part of the mainstream political life of the state in all conceivable areas.

5.   In order of priority - social reconciliation and interface with civil society of Kashmir and its institutions.


Given these circumstances, a well structured programme inclusive of the above mentioned issues will be the most constructive way of deepening intercommunity relations and connectedness. It will contribute to understanding and interpreting the changes and challenges ahead. It is logical to seek answers to our multiple concerns in the new initiative. While understanding the resolve of the new Government, our core concerns need to be evaluated properly. This in any case is a blueprint for the new future of this displaced community which indeed is looking to the future and not the past.  

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