Virtual Homeland of Kashmiri Pandits

Kashmir News Network

| Home | About Kashmir Herald |

Volume 4, No. 4 - October 2004

Email this page to a friend
Featured Article Printer-Friendly Page
Why ‘Homeland’ for KPs?
Dr. M. L. Pandit

Uprootment and displacement of Kashmiri Pandits (KP’s) is already a decade and a half old. Their return and resettlement back in the vale of Kashmir continues to be an elusive dream. This agenda has lost its sensitivity and seriousness already. It, like many other national issues, has been turned into yet another subject of “continued dialogue and discussion” at varied forums within and outside the government. Since dialogue and discussion have become synonymous with accomplishment in our fragile democratic polity and republic, the return and resettlement of KP’s cannot be an exception. So the dialogue continues.

Is there any possibility of reversing the longest exodus of KP’s? ‘ Homeland’, broadly encompassing a single but viable and secure zone of resettlement, is the only feasible option on account of a variety of compelling realities. This opportunity too may be lost if the ‘homeland’ option does not become a reality within next five years or so. The prominent factors making the homeland the only option available are listed below.

Failure of Kashmiriyat
The first, and the foremost factor here, is the failure of the so-called and much publicized ‘Kashmiriyat’ foundation of the composite culture. ‘Kashmiriyat’, no doubt, surfaced and succeeded on the critical eve of partition and independence. It spared the valley the curse and the disgrace of communal frenzy and rioting occurring on a large scale in the northern and some eastern parts of the sub-continent. Moreover, the valley did not record any noticeable migration of the microscopic minorities despite the tribal invasion, supported by
Pakistan, from across the border. The then local people, poor and illiterate, stood like rocks to protect and assure their non-Muslim neighbors. The towering leaders of the then National Conference, led by Jenab Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, also played their role in assuring their safety and continued security. It was this kind of ‘Kashmiriyat’ which became the ‘ray of hope’ for the father of the nation amidst unprecedented communal flames and passions accompany the partition and independence.

After independence, ‘Kahmiriyat’ became a victim of democracy under successive governments. These governments perused policies which discriminated against the minorities. Evidence to this affect is available in plenty, including judgments of the apex court, on matters relating to employment promotions and admissions to professional courses. The outcome was a communal divide, especially in urban areas, where educated persons were concentrated initially. In the rural areas agrarian reforms uprooting petty land owners belonging to the minority communities played a similar role. The ongoing controversy and dispute over Kashmir has, however, been the single most important factor responsible for the communal divide. It is due to this problem that the KP’s came to be labelled as Indian agents and a major hurdle in settling the Kashmir dispute to the satisfaction of the dominant majority community. Permission to Jamaat-e-Islamia to launch a chain of schools from early 1970‘s also contributed significantly to this divide. These schools are too well known for teaching and preaching fundamentalism and secessionism.

The failure of ‘Kashmiriyat’ was self evident in the 1990’s uprootment and the exodus of minorities. People from the majority community this time could not offer security nor assurances to their migrating neighbours. They remained mute spectators to their brutal killings and migration, while the gun was in the hands of the ‘sons of the soil’ initially. This represents a sea change from the time the father of the nation had seen a ‘ray of hope’ in Kashmir. The launch of ‘Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir’ with the support of Jamaat-e-Islami fundamentalist organization on August 7, 2004 represents an extreme outcome of this change. This is evident in the listed priorities and objectives of the outfit as reported in the Daily Excelsior of the following day. We quote:

“While addressing a crowded news conference at his Hyderpora residence, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said that “Un-Islamic ideologies like secularism, socialism, nationalism and even communism” had become the ‘source of inspiration’ for the Hurriyat faction led by Maulvi Abbas Ansari and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. He asserted that nothing but Nizam-e-Mustafa could be the source of inspiration for Kashmir’s struggle for freedom. Until the rule of Islam prevails, we will continue our struggle”.

The above statement, by itself, is proof enough of the status of much hyped Kashmiriyat today. Even the well-known fundamentalist Hurriyat Conference is accused of being secular and, therefore, unfit to take up the cause of Kashmir. Since the ground realities have changed radically after the exodus of the microscopic minorities, their resettlement at fairly dispersed and isolated native places is simply not feasible. It is not even advisable in view of huge security related risks and expenses. A homeland type resettlement is the only feasible option. It can survive even along with the majority cherished Nizam-e-Mustafa should it take shape somewhere in near or distant future.

Distress sale of native places
Secondly, most of the migrants have already disposed off their ancestral places of residence as well as other immovable property. This is particularly the case with urban areas where residential houses and plots attracted buyers from the majority community. It may be safe to assume that a vast majority of urban houses and residential plots have already been sold out. Where would their erstwhile owners reside on their return?

In the rural areas most residential houses may be in dilapidated conditions and still under ownership of the migrants but the same is not true of agriculture related assets. Most of the agricultural land and orchards stand disposed off. While a majority of the houses were set ablaze after the exodus, especially on the eve of demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhiya in December 1992, those left out have collapsed or become dilapidated over the years in the absence of care and maintenance. It is common knowledge that rural life is not even conceivable unless the residents own agricultural and grazing land to raise some food, fuel, fodder, and vegetables. Besides, rural migrants living in urban areas for the last fifteen years of displacement may find it difficult to adjust to the hard realities of rural life. Many of them, especially the younger generation, would have to learn the vital skills and knowledge a village dweller requires for survival.

Thus settlement at ancestral birthplaces is ruled out. In fact the government over the years also seems to have come to a similar conclusion. An indication to this effect is available in the ongoing and proposed construction of housing clusters at or around all district head quarters in Kashmir valley for accommodating migrant as well as scattered non-migrant KP’s. The scheme has the approval and financial support of the central government. These clusters have essentially been constructed for the latter group whose security at isolated places is a major concern and expense, especially in view of the well-known periodic massacres of still resident minority communities in the past. A single cluster for the entire KP community would be the ideal and viable option to attract the migrants back to the paradise. Moreover, the viability and effectiveness of the cluster option has historical precedents in Kashmir. For example, a smaller microscopic community of “Sikhs” settled at well known clusters in the valley has fared better in the past as well as in the present times of turmoil.

Discriminations during displacement
Thirdly, the long years of displacement and Uprootment have eroded   the faith and trust of the migrants on the state and the Central governments. Most of the migrants have been living within Jammu and Kashmir, mainly in Jammu city. However, the government has treated them as if they belong to another country, planet. This is self evident in the manner the migrant government employees have come to be treated. A large number of them continue to receive ‘migrant salaries’ without performing any duties. While transfer of employees from Jammu to Kashmir province and vice versa continue to be routine practice, even temporary adjustment of migrant employees in the province of their shelter, namely, Jammu has not been made on the pretext of local resentment. This policy continues even in departments characterized with acute shortage of manpower like health and education.

It may be shocking to learn that highly qualified and experienced migrant faculty of the Government Medical College, Srinagar, remains to be deployed even today although Government Medical College, Jammu is short of specialists and faculty. Incidentally, this college is under the process of being upgraded to the level of All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Doctors and other paramedical professionals working in the state health department have of late been accommodated at Jammu but in specially established one/two room dispensaries meant for migrants. Even signboards announcing their establishment are conspicuous by their absence. Naturally very few patients visit dispensaries devoid of essential infrastructure and facilities. It is common knowledge that professionals on duty have evolved a rotational system of attending duties to avoid congestion.

While the incidence of diseases like depression, diabetes and high blood pressure has been increasing rapidly among the migrants on account of displacement and shelter in hot and humid places, one wonders why the state government did not deploy the salaried migrant doctors and other para-medical staff to attend to the ever increasing number of migrant patients. Or, why did the government allow these salaried doctors to do private practice even during the stipulated paid working hours? As already reported even the specially created dispensaries came to be set up years after the exodus. In contrast migrant employees of lesser important departments came to be deployed soon after the migration though not in full strength. The government could at least have ordered the salaried doctors to charge lower consultation fees for the hours they were expected to be on duty.

More or less similar has been the case with the vital education sector which incidentally has been the first priority of KP’s for quite some time. At the university and college levels migrant faculty and the students came to adjusted in specially created Camp Classes. These camp classes for many years after the exodus continued to be affiliated to the Kashmir University and not to Jammu University where the migrants had taken shelter. This affiliation resulted in delayed examinations on account of ongoing disturbances in the valley of Kashmir. At the school level, a majority of the teachers have been drawing salaries without rendering any duty. The rest of them were adjusted in specially created camp schools. All these camps lacked basic infrastructure and facilities. Their working hours were also odd enough as their day began after the regular shifts. In view of these constraints migrant students came to prefer private schools and tuitions to meet their urge for quality education. After school their preference has been for professional courses outside the state, especially in Maharashtra where they were offered “free” seats under a special quota. This facility has subsequently come to be offered in some other states as well. Consequently, a good number of migrant camp educational centers have become redundant on account of dwindling student population. It has already touched zero at some of these centers.

When migrants are the sons of the soil, why have they been discriminated against in matters relating to vital health care and education? When a displaced child finds his elders drawing migrant salaries during his entire childhood, he or she can easily assess the chances of getting employed within the state. This is why the new generation of the migrants is frustrated and alienated. This alienation gets reinforced when records relating to post exodus recruitment of migrant youth are taken notice of. Although thousands of migrants have retired during the last fifteen years, very few migrants have come to be absorbed as government employees. There are many more areas where the response of the state government is disappointing rather far short of expectations. Prominent among these relate to disbursement of relief among non-government employee migrants, availability of records relating to leftover and encroached immovable properties and transfer of records relating to GPF and pensioners benefits of the retired and retiring employees. The displaced people do not expect a major change in government response in case they return and resettle at their isolated native places.

Democratic Aspirations
Fourthly, the homeland, rather a single cluster option alone can meet the democratic aspirations and expectations of KP’s comprising an overwhelming majority of 56,380 migrant families living in different parts of the country, especially at
Jammu (34,644) and Delhi (19,338). Figures in parentheses indicate the number of migrant families. Democracy in India has come to be known for its populist outcomes. The right to vote has worked   wonders where the electorate has learnt to use it cleverly and intelligently. Since KP’s in Kashmir were an isolated and scattered microscopic minority, their capacity to influence and alter electoral outcomes was limited. Consequently, no political party bothered to take up their cause and welfare. The community was naturally leaderless, as members of the community could not reap dividends as leaders of consequence. Displacement of the community and their concentration at Jammu and Delhi have changed the situation radically not withstanding the fact that their democratic right to vote remains to be transferred and exercised to their places of shelter. These concentrations have worked wonders in the democratic and political awakening of the community. The post exodus period has witnessed a spate of socio-political organizations and their leadership. In fact the urge to assume leadership roles has led to the splits of some of the prominent outfits to accommodate the aspiring second in command leaders. Fortunately, some of the prominent and respected professionals have also taken up leadership roles and thereby raised the expectations of a fair deal for the community.

A homeland in native Kashmir accommodating the entire community would be ideal for realizing the pent-up democratic and other aspirations of one of the worlds highly qualified, experienced and peace living community. As high level of literacy is an essential prerequisite of successful democracy, the homeland can become a model for third world democracies. The leadership surfaced during the exodus can provide the necessary inputs for steering the community out of its post-exodus challenges, especially those arising on account of forced parasitic survival during the long period of displacement and consequent disabilities. Since coalition governments at the state and the union levels are going to last long, there is no reason why the homeland should not reap its share of political dividends by offering the critical support to these governments.

Lastly, a separate homeland within the valley might turnout to be a blessing for the entire state. KP’s are known and respected for their ability to render certain high value specialized services related to health care, education and accounting. It is on account of these services that the link between the displaced and the majority communities of the valley has remained intact. The majority community has continued to utilise the services of the migrant doctors and teachers. The distance and the inconvenience have not been allowed to deprive the majority of these services. The homeland may turn out to be a welcome and productive spring of these services for the entire population of the valley. Exposure to new professions and skills during displacement may enable the younger generation to render many more service currently not available locally. The time is running out and the homeland demand deserves serious consideration. The love of motherland is still strong enough to attract a vast majority of the migrants back to the valley of their dreams. Generous funding is also available from the central government for the return and re-settlement of the displaced people. Let us cease the opportunity in right earnest and sincerity and resurrect the glorious tradition of Kashmiriat and composite culture.

| Archives | Privacy Policy | Copyrights | Contact Us |
© 2001-2005 Kashmir Herald (A Publication). All Rights Reserved
[Views and opinions expressed in Kashmir Herald are solely those of the authors of the articles/opinion pieces
and not of Kashmir Herald Editorial Board.]