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Are Kashmiri Pandits willing to return to valley?

Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits is still a big task. Actually, it needs a will power to rehabilitate them. No one is bothered to look into the plight of those are in transit camps. During Lok Sabha as well as in Assembly elections, both political parties — PDP and BJP — promises for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in valley but they are not fulfilling those. Since, its BJP and PDP alliance government, people are expecting that something can be done for Pandits. However, after CM has sworn in nothing has been done in this regards. If Mufti Mohammad Saeed has reservation in giving separate place to the destitute Pandits then he must ensure the safety and security of the Pandits. I have doubts about the numbers of Kashmiri Pandits willing to go back to the valley from where they were driven out in 1989?

Meanwhile, government’s move to create a separate colony in the state for Kashmiri Pandits was opposed by many, as this would create rift between communities. Displaced Kashmiri Pandits have demanded the right to return to the Kashmir Valley that they call home after completing 25 years in exile. They left their ancestral homes in 1989 in droves when a bloody rebellion broke out against New Delhi’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. From the 13th century, when Islam became a majority religion in Kashmir, and until 1989, Muslims lived side-by-side with Pandits. But nearly 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits left for safer places in India because of a sharp rise in killings of Hindus and attacks on their homes at the start of a rebellion by Muslim militants in 1989. It was the largest migration since the 1947 partition of the subcontinent into mainly Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan. The Kashmiri Pandits, also are known as Kashmiri Brahmins.

Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1587 AD. During his Mughals rule the Hindus enjoyed security of person and property and were allotted high government posts. It was he, who, pleased with their intelligence, gave them the surname Pandit. The Mughals was followed by that of Afghans. Gradually, many Kashmiris converted to Islam, leaving smaller population of Kashmiri Pandits who still practiced the Shaivite religion. The majority, though still remained Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir, the Brahmin Pandits of Kashmir established themselves in the Northern area of India, first in the Rajput and Mughal courts and then in the service of the Dogra rulers of Kashmir. This cohesive community, highly literate and socially elite, were one of the first to discuss and implement social reforms.

The Kashmiri Pandits had stably constituted approximately 14 to 15 per cent of the population of the valley during Dogra rule (1846–1947). 20 per cent of them left the valley as a consequence of the 1948 Muslim riots and 1950 land reforms, and by 1981 the Pandit population amounted to 5 per cent of the total. They began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990s, following persecution by terrorists. The events of 19 January 1990 were particularly vicious. On that day, mosques issued declarations that the Kashmiri Pandits were Kafirs and that the males had to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam or be killed. Those who chose to the first of these were told to leave their women behind so that they could be used as sex slaves. The Kashmiri Muslims were instructed to identify Pandit’s homes so they could be systematically targeted for conversion or killing. Approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during the 1990s. The nature of planned exodus has remain controversial, with the involvement of then Governor Jagmohan in organizing a clandestine exodus been a subject of controversy. Many of the refugee Kashmiri Pandits have been living in abject conditions in refugee camps of Jammu. The government has reported on the terrorist threats to Pandits still living in the Kashmir region.

In 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir noted that 808 Pandit families, comprising 3,445 people, were still living in the Valley and that financial and other incentives put in place to encourage others to return there had been unsuccessful. According to a J&K government report, 219 members of the community had been killed in the region between 1989 and 2004 but none thereafter. The exiled community had hoped to return after the situation improved.

Recently, Jammu & Kashmir government approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri Pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs. 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that, he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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