Sainik Colony and the return of Hindu exiles
by Naveen Kaul on 15 Jun 2016 1 Comment

The issue of the return of Kashmiri Hindu exiles has captured national attention in recent weeks. Along with it has surfaced the issue of establishment of a Sainik Colony in Kashmir for retired Army personnel of Jammu & Kashmir. There have been large-scale protests and rhetoric in the valley over the two issues. The response to both issues from the valley-based populace is the same, viz., “We will not allow the establishment of either Sainik Colony or separate townships at any cost”. “Even if it requires us to spill our blood, we will, but we will not allow”.


Separatists are spearheading the protests and spreading canards such as “it is an attempt to change the demography and create an Israel-Palestine like situation in the valley”. Separatists who work at the behest of Pakistan have stated in numerous public meetings that Hindus are welcome back, but they should go back to the homes where they lived before the eruption of militancy.


This is a clever trick on their part as they know there are no homes left for these people to return to. Some have been burned, some illegally occupied and some were sold by displaced Hindus at dirt cheap rates. They know very well that it is not possible for the government to force the Muslims to vacate these properties.


The new structures that have come up at places where Hindus once dwelt will not be dismantled as such an attempt would be ferociously thwarted not only by separatists but also by common Muslims. And it is logical not to uproot the families that are now residing there as Hindus don’t want to uproot anyone, but just want to reconnect with their roots.


The response of valley-based political parties of all hues who toe the same line as that of the separatists, thereby giving credence to their false propaganda, is unfortunate. Consequently, the government machinery has a tough time convincing the people in the valley that the Sainik Colony for the Army will accommodate army personnel from J& K only and no one from outside.


However, the bigger tragedy is the response of the so-called national parties and parties that claim to be nationalists.


Congress party has made it amply clear in public rallies in the valley that they will not allow separate townships at any cost. They made it a point not be left behind in issuing veiled threats of violence if the government moves ahead with its proposals. The response of the Congress may come as a surprise to some, but not to several members of the Kashmiri Hindu community as it is the party that is primarily responsible for the misery of the community. The Congress has been unmasked and it is now abundantly clear that it does not practice secularism, but the politics of appeasement.


The response of Bharatiya Janata Party, which claims to be a nationalist party, is quite interesting and comes as a surprise. All the years when it was in opposition, it assured its full support to the principal demand of Kashmiri Hindus - the demand of a separate homeland for Hindus. But after coming to power, it sensed the mood on the ground in the valley and urged Hindus to put the demand for a separate homeland on the backburner.


The BJP started making excuses that it is not possible to grant such a wish as there would be stiff resistance from Muslims in the valley. Faced with the grim reality, the Hindus agreed to settle for separate townships if not a separate homeland. So far so good. But little did the government know that there would be the same level of resistance for the proposed separate townships as they had assumed for the separate homeland.


The protests against the proposed exclusive townships for Hindus have forced the BJP to shelve the plan. The People’s Democratic Party came up with the suggestion of composite townships with 50 percent Hindus and 50 percent others. Surprisingly, the BJP agreed to it.


The PDP has also raised the issue of the return of Kashmiri Muslim youth who crossed over to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir for arms training during the late 1980s. The PDP claims that there are thousands of such youth who want to come back. One wonders how thousands of youth could cross over to POK for arms training? And what is the guarantee that all those who come back will be only from this side of the valley? The Centre has assured PDP of opening up more cross-LOC points for movement of goods and people. As part of it, the Nepal route would be legalised to facilitate the return of such youth.  


What sort of a partnership is this where the BJP is repeatedly taking the dictation of the PDP? The latest ground reports suggest that the PDP-BJP alliance is contemplating settling Hindus in numerous clusters spread across the valley, with the capacity to accommodate families in the range of 25 to 30. So the idea of 50-50 townships seems to have been revised to this plan of small clusters where also there will be some Muslims. Seems they want to checkmate one community, as if they are playing chess.


Settling Hindus in such clusters will pose a threat to the community as providing security to dwellers in such clusters will be a challenging task. Upon their return, things may remain normal for a while (say one or two years), but things can take an ugly turn any time given the volatile nature of the state. Hindus in such clusters can be easy targets for terrorists.


Who will guarantee safety of the Hindus who choose to return? What if those who return after 26 years of exile, leaving behind their present jobs and homes, are again driven out of the valley? In such a situation they will be left with nowhere to go. 


The repeated compromises over the two issues by the BJP, which positioned itself as sympathetic towards Hindus, raises doubts in the minds of Hindus about the BJP’s sincerity towards Hindu causes. Hindus have tested the Congress party for the past 60 years and are willing to give the BJP some time to ensure a dignified return of Hindus. Hindus do not expect the BJP to rush to settle Hindus without taking into account long-term consequences of such an action. The community can bear a few more years in exile, but it cannot bear repeated exodus.


The attitude of the Muslim majority reminds one that of the attitude of Duryodhana in the Mahabharata. Like Duryodhana, they are not willing to give an inch. Unfortunately, unlike the Pandavas, the Kashmiri Hindus are not powerful and cannot fight back. Nor do they have a Krishna on their side to guide them to victory and put an end to their exile. Nor is there any monk on the side of the separatists who can make them see the merit of non-violence. However, there is definitely one thing that Kashmiri Hindus can do. They can reject the proposal to settle in composite colonies. Eagerness to return should not overrule prudence.


The author was a young schoolboy when the family had to flee the valley in 1990. They lived in Jammu for many years before settling in Uttar Pradesh. He is a software professional

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top