Virtual Homeland of Kashmiri Pandits

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Volume 3, No. 1 - June 2003

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Return of Internally displaced Persons
K.N. Pandita

The Government of India has stubbornly refused to recognize the three hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandits as ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs). National Human Rights commission, to which the displaced Pandits had approached for advising the State Government to replace their nomenclature of “migrants” to IDPs, rejected the plea because the Government of India did not want it.

By agreeing to change the nomenclature, the Government of India feared its half-a-century old myth of Kashmir, as a symbol of its secularism would be exploded.  Not reality but Illusion of secularism in Kashmir had gripped the Indian leadership. Now the worst was that it had began to believe in its own lies. Armed insurgency of 1990 came to it as a rude shock. No central or state leader of any substance could understand that in hurling the dangerous card of so-called secularism in Kashmir at the face of Pakistan, the Indian ruling class was fatally endangering the life and honour of the minuscule minority of the Pandits in Kashmir.

The tyranny of majoritarianism had already held them in its stranglehold ever since the dawn of freedom. Pakistan had no difficulty in contriving their decimation through the instrumentality of her vast Kashmiri network.

Now the State and the Central governments want to send back a few dozen Pandit families to the shrine places of Matan and Tulamula to re-enact the secularist farce. The casual manner in which the issues was addressed in the Rajya Sabha recently, not only by the Home Minister but by the two members from J&K also shows how a matter of deep national concern can be trivialized and the nation misled.

Two Commissions of Inquiry have so far probed the killing of five local civilians in connection with Chhatisinghpora massacre of 35 Sikhs three years ago. National Human Rights Commission sent its team to make inquiries on spot and kept the report a secret. Should not the nation demand setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to go into all aspects of the rise of armed insurgency in Kashmir in 1990, the killing of hundreds of Pandits by the locals and the extirpation of the entire Pandit community from its homeland?

Can there be true secularism and democracy in Kashmir without giving the Pandit minority a political space? Can we call it a secular arrangement when there is not a single elected representative of the community in the State legislature and when there is no adequate representation in other organs of the State? As long as these instruments are lacking, Pakistan will have all the advantage to push its theocratic agenda in Jammu and Kashmir.

The return and rehabilitation of the Pandits is not that simple as is thought of by our policy planners. Chaining communities to their places of ritual and worship does not create secular institutions. Pandit community like any other community is a dynamic mass with aspirations and hopes, with successes and failures. Pandits, if at all they have to live back in Kashmir, will live not as “amaanat” or trust of anybody but as equal, active and responsible partners in the nation building process. Giving them jobs and incentives is not an obligation but their right. So is the demand for homeland. “Amaanat” obligation is the other name of dhimmitude; it is shameful for those who offer and those who take.

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