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OPINION

A case for Quadrification of Jammu and Kashmir- Only Way forward
LALIT KOUL

“Meri Jaan, Teri Jaan, Pakistan! Pakistan!” “Jeevay Jeevay, Pakistan! Pakistan! Pakistan!” “Meri Jaan, Teri Jaan, Pakistan! Pakistan!”

Yes, that is what is being heard these days in Kashmir valley, just 6 weeks after PDP and BJP formed a coalition government in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Anyone who didn’t expect this to happen must be living in a cave without any connection to the outside world.

Last few weeks, we have witnessed the gory exposure of bigotry practiced by Mufti Sayeed led government, National Conference, Congress, terrorists, anti-national secessionists and their local supporters in the Kashmir valley. It all started with the brouhaha raised by Mufti’s statement about securing lands for so-called “composite townships” for Kashmiri Hindu refugees. As soon as the news about the proposal was out, all hell broke loose in the valley and usual suspects came out on streets showing their communal and heinous colors. Yasin Malik, who by his own admission has blood of innocent Indians on his hands, led the charge and challenged Mufti Sayeed by threatening valley-wide strikes and protests.

Mufti, as expected, quickly crawled, did a U-turn and validated the well-established fact of PDP’s pro-secessionists bent of mind. Mufti’s well-orchestrated announcement and then the quick reversal clearly revealed who is in whose bed in Kashmir politics. When terrorist Yasin Malik declared that he would oppose the proposed composite townships “tooth and nail” and Mufti Sayeed obliged by bending over backwards, it became evidently clear who calls the shots in the valley. It was a well laid out tactical strategy wherein Mufti used the issue of Kashmiri Hindus’ return as a ploy to provide space to terrorist outfits and allow them a free reign in the valley. We are already seeing Pakistani flags being unfurled at rallies, led by SAS Geelani and Masarat Alam, and attended by throngs of anti-India-slogan-shouting local Muslims.

Over the last 25 years, we have time and again seen successive governments and local Kaahmiri politicians shed crocodile tears for Kashmiri Hindus and claiming Kashmir to be incomplete without them. Each time, they come up with some vague proposals for our return and rehabilitation that never addresses the root causes of our ethnic cleansing. The trial balloons are set sail to keep the ball rolling and opportunities are provided to terrorist outfits for inciting locals against Kashmiri Hindus’ return to their homeland.

Taj Mohi-u-Din, a minister in Mufti Sayeed's previous J&K government, once proposed that for Kashmiri Hindus’ return, they need to first approach the imams of the villages and other Muslim leaders in the valley. He said, “Once they (imams) are motivated, they can convince the villagers through Friday congregations. The youth, if motivated and mobilized, will go out of the way to make arrangements for the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits.”

Yasin Malik once asked Kashmiri Hindus to stay out of the political process and threatened by saying, “They should remain neutral in the ongoing struggle, and lead a normal, peaceful life, without involving themselves.”

Independent MLA from Langate, Engineer Rashid not only opposes Kashmiri Hindus’ return to their homeland, but also demands unconditional apology from Kashmiri Hindus for leaving the valley. Everyone who is opposing our return to our homeland should keep one fact in mind that Kashmiri Hindus are the only original inhabitants of the Kashmir valley and nobody can deny them the right to their homeland. Neither Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed nor terrorist Yasin Malik nor any hate-spewing Imam can dictate when and how Kashmiri Hindus will return to their cherished homes and hearth. Those who engineered the exodus along with the gun wielding terrorists certainly have no right to dictate to us the terms and conditions of our return.

According to reliable and informed sources, Mufti’s latest proposal for Kashmiri Hindus’ return and rehabilitation plan called for acquiring 50 acres of land for these so-called “composite townships”.

Yes, 50 acres for community of 700,000+ Kashmiri Hindus i.e., 14,000 people per acre of land. An Auschwitz camp for Kashmiri Hindus!

Let me help you visualize 1 acre of land….

1 Acre of land = 4,840 Square yards

That doesn't help!

Let us try again…

1 Acre of land = 16 tennis courts stacked together.

That didn’t help either!

Let us try again….

1 Acre of land is approximately equal to a parking lot that can accommodate 150 cars.

Yes! Parking lot for 150 cars!

So 14,000 people will have to fit in a space equivalent to 150 cars parking lot.

About 93 people in 1 (Yes! ONE) car parking spot!

That sums up the PDP-BJP J&K government’s “return and rehabilitation” policy for Kashmiri Hindu refugees.

93 Kashmiri Hindus per car parking lot!!

That too in the same hostile environment, where our voices will be choked; religious shrines will be desecrated; womenfolk will be dishonored; lives will be threatened and eventually yet another exodus engineered. Why would anyone agree to such dreadful plan? In an open letter to Prime Minister Modi on June 20, 2014, I had requested him to not tie our return to our homeland to any financial package and instead analyze the root cause of our forced exodus. I had implored upon him to address the aspirations of folks from each region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by eradicating the hegemony of Kashmiri Muslim politicians over the entire state. It seems his government did listen and after 10 months decided on a new plan. A new plan of 50 parking lots in same hostile environment! When the majority Muslim community, mainstream regional political parties, and secessionists in the valley are brazenly opposing our just return to our homes, Panun Kashmir’s demand for separate Union Territory becomes a justified demand. Union Territory carved in state of J&K governed completely under Indian Constitution without any riders like Article 370 is the only solution to give Hindus of Kashmir a dignified return to their homes. The only long-lasting option left for India is the quadrification of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and reorganize the state into two states and two union territories: Kashmir and Jammu as states, Ladakh and Panun Kashmir as union territories.

Quadrification:

A solution based on quadrification would create a separate territory, Panun Kashmir, where the ethnically cleansed and exiled Kashmiri Hindus would be able to return in safety and live without any fear of gun and prejudice. This would be a place free from Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. It would be a place where everyone including Kashmiri Hindus and other minorities can freely practice their political, cultural, economic, social and religious rights as charted in United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", and as in the rest of India. Contrary to what some vested interests say, Panun Kashmir would be a place for anyone (including Muslims) who believes in the Indian constitution without any riders like Article370. It would be a place for anyone who believes in one nation, one flag, and one constitution for all Indian citizens. The Indian government should declare the area as a Union Territory, with strong investment in technology and centers of educational and medical excellence. While Kashmiri Hindus would be accorded priority in the territory as refugees returning from inhumane refugee camps, other Indians willing to invest and work in high-technology fields would also be welcome. If India shows the resolve and commitment to stand by Kashmir and help it move forward, the inevitable outcome will be the rapid weakening of fundamentalist forces. In a similar backdrop, Croatian Serbs, loyal only to Milosevic-style Serb nationalism, vacated the Krajina region and migrated to Yugoslavia once they were convinced that Croatia would not tolerate balkanization of the young country.

The knee-jerk response of opponents of this solution is that it undermines secularism. But it is precisely the status quo that has undermined secularism in the state over the last half-century. If it were really secular, we would not have seen the Hindu population going down from 5% in 1947 to less than .5% in the entire Kashmir valley today. 700,000+ Kashmiri Hindus in the valley reduced to mere 3000-4000 souls. That is secularism as practiced in Kashmir today. Creation of Panun Kashmir will allow it to integrate culturally and economically with secular India in a rapid manner. The same will be true of Ladakh and Jammu. Both these regions will be able to escape the hegemony by Kashmiri Muslims that they have suffered for decades. People of Jammu and Ladakh regions will be able to choose their own leaders and have someone from their region for once lead their own state.

Opponents of this proposal also claim that quadrification of the state is not constitutionally viable. The fact of the matter is that all that is just a red herring. Constitutions are built and amended by people. If governments have the will, constitutions are and can be amended for the good of the nation. Before Bangladesh was born, there was no Bangladesh. Before Uttrakhand was created, there was no Uttrakhand. Legal viability or non-viability is just an excuse for inaction. All it needs is political courage. If Indian government has the political courage, it can be done. This will indeed be one of the most difficult decisions for the Indian government, one in which it has to go beyond vote-bank politics, but in the long term would be the most effective and long-lasting solution.

The question that remains is what happens to the rest of the valley – the new state of Kashmir. Quadrification plan calls for abrogation of Article 370 from this area as well, while steps are undertaken to ensure that this region preserves Kashmiri Muslim culture. This will facilitate both the preservation of Kashmiri Muslim tradition and a gradual economic integration with India. Having said that, the key for successful integration with India still lies with local Kashmiri Muslims. At the end of the day, they have to decide whether they want the peaceful and prosperous future for their children or do they want their children to suffer at the hands of Jihadi forces. Choice is theirs and theirs only!

In a recent article on the subject of our return to Kashmir, Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor of The Hindu, commented upon the demand of Panun Kashmir and said “community organizations like Panun Kashmir have built their career around the demand for the creation of a Pandit ‘homeland’ within the valley.” Nothing can be farther from the truth. This line of thinking by liberal media clearly shows its appeasement tilt towards anti-national forces and bias against nationalist organizations like Panun Kashmir. Panun Kashmir activists are not paid by anyone for fighting for the cause. They are all working professionals, who first lost their homeland in 1990 and have since sacrificed everything and invested their tears, sweat and blood for the cause. Unlike Mr. Varadarajan, Panun Kashmir activists do not sit in air-conditioned homes and pass sermons from their perches. They toil on ground zero and make their presence felt on the streets. While SAS Geelani and Masarat Alam’s supporters were waving Pakistani flags and shouting anti-India slogans in Kashmir, Panun Kashmir activists and Kashmiri refugees from Jagti Township in Jammu were protesting on the streets for their just demand of homeland. It is ironical and tragic that while rallies of Kashmiri Muslim secessionists and terrorists were getting wall-2-wall TV coverage, Kashmiri Hindu refugee protestors in Jammu were getting lathi charged by local police. Mr. Varadarajan would not know what fighting for cause means because he has never faced a policeman’s lathi on his back and knees. I hope he never does.

We, Kashmiri Hindus, will surely return to our homeland but only after:

• An exhaustive inquiry by an SIT into the causes behind our ethnic cleansing is completed and made public;

• The conspirators and perpetrators of our ethnic cleansing are held responsible for their crimes against our community and punished as per the laws of land;

• Our fundamental right of freedom of expression is secured so that tomorrow no one is able to choke our voice;

• Our fundamental right of freedom of religion is secured so that tomorrow no one is able to demolish and desecrate our religious institutions and temples;

• Our fundamental political rights are secured so that we can have a political role and voice in shaping and securing our own future;

• Our fundamental right of having a homeland is secured by carving out a Union territory of Panun Kashmir where India’s Constitution will be fully implemented in letter and spirit without any local riders;

• Our security is guaranteed in such a manner that we will never have to face another exodus in the future.

Lalleshwari, the mystic saint-poetess of Kashmir probably had foreseen our future when she said the immortal lines now carved in the heart of every Hindu living in forced exile today- ‘Zuv chum bramaan, gara gatsahaha’

‘My heart is pining, I want to go back home’



Lalit Koul has been a Panun Kashmir activist for more than two decades. He is also the current President of Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF).

Courtesy : MyInd.net

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