uring the LS election campaigns, while hitting out at Rahul Gandhi, then BJP President and now Home Minister Amit Shah emphasised that no one can make India part with J&K as long as the BJP exists. Well! We all know BJP for its jumlas and tall claims. So far, they haven’t done much to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits. They used Pandits for votes; the irony is that the so-called Kashmiri Pandits, those who are in the film industry, became slaves to BJP and its propaganda because they wanted some perks and also the political seats and stakes. If you look at Kashmir, BJP really cannot do much as the oldest generation, who had spent 70 per cent of their lifetime in Kashmir and are still connected to their roots, are either no more or ailing. They miss their motherland every day, cry almost every day, recall all their memories, and talk about them — but it seems impossible that Kashmir will return to normalcy during their lifetime. The second generation too suffered the most, they had spent almost 50 per cent of their lifetime in Kashmir; they still have those scars but they have moved on, created a new nest, new life, and new identity and are happy in the current conditions. They don’t have the courage to give it all for that uncertainty, not worth it.
The present generation born in (‘75 to ’20s), spent a major chunk of their life away from the valley. They may have some faint memory but not much of the belonging. They are equally anonymous to the situations as any other normal citizen. For them, Kashmir is some horror story about which their grandparents tell them once in a while very passionately and emotionally; their grandparents sometimes even tell them about some good stories about Kashmir (likes how prosperous we were back then, how big our houses were, how many acres of apple gardens we had) — these are just stories for this generation and they don’t even speak Kashmiri properly. Why would these kids like to go to some alien land? They might enjoy it as an experience of their family but will never feel any bond. They do not wish to return because they don’t trust the people and the governments. This future generation of Kashmiri Pandits can’t even speak their native language or can relate to this culture — do you really think they will look to settle in Kashmir?
Kashmir is boiling since the time of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits (1990). Radicalism is increasing in the state day by day due to the brainwashing of some people by the extremists. So, it is not safe for the Kashmiri Pandits to return home. They have lost their homes and other properties — what will they do after returning to Kashmir? They don’t have any trust in the government whether they will be able to protect them or not after returning to Kashmir Valley. Once they have lost their families, they don’t want to lose the remaining family members again. Kashmiri Pandits know that the situation will go worse in Kashmir if they return to the valley. Hence, they will never try to return until the situation becomes normal. Everyone knows, nothing can change the fate of the valley but everyone wants to bake their bread there.
RSS-BJP combo always wanted to rule J&K to enforce its kind of majoritarian policy in the state. Tragically, the 2014 BJP-PDP agenda for alliance never took off and the alliance itself turned out to be a disaster. It widened the gulf between the three regions of the state and contributed to the rise, once again, of home-grown militants, especially young men inspired by extremism. Apart from increasing alienation among a new generation of Kashmiris, the turmoil since 2016 has claimed more lives. Present ruling party and its origin of inspiration, the RSS, are all shouting from rooftops that they act strong when it comes to national security. This is their way to inform their core constituency across the country in the election season that it is capable of acting tough with anti-nationals. However, those matters in Delhi are playing with fire. To make Kashmir an issue in the national poll campaign by punishing the ordinary Kashmiris is to play fast and loose with the unity of the country and its integrity. And for What? Only to grab a few extra votes! It is quite unbelievable.
This is what the Bharatiya Janata Party wrote in its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto. This was what the estimated 1.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee from the Valley, and their growing families were looking for. They overwhelmingly supported it. However, five years down the line, the community feels they have been forgotten. They say that they have been failed. Now, when the BJP government at the Centre completed its term and entered into the second term, it forgot the fact that they have actually not done anything for them.
Kashmiri Pandits filed two RTI applications with the Department of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. In the first RTI, they asked about the progress in cases related to the killing of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir and the number of FIRs lodged in those cases and the total number of Kashmiri Pandits killed in the valley. In response, it was told, “The information is not available with the undersigned CPIO and might be available with the State Government of J&K.” The second RTI was about the exact number of Kashmiri Pandits who are left in the Valley and the exact number of those who had then subsequently been rehabilitated. Again, they were told that the government does not have any information about the number of Kashmiri Pandits who are left in the Valley or even about the migrants who might have been rehabilitated in the past 10 years. This time too we were asked to approach the state government. They had also asked about the steps taken by the Central government to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the past 10 years. The government of India has identified three major schemes taken up by it for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. They are monthly cash relief/dry ration, Prime Minister’s Relief Package 2008 and Prime Minister’s Development Package 2015. Out of the three, two dates back to times before Narendra Modi came to power. When it was asked about the money spent by the government of India on the transit accommodation of the Kashmiri Pandits in the past 10 years, the reply stated, “The Government of India has issued sanction to the Govt of J&K for construction of 6,000 transit accommodations in the Kashmir Valley under the PMDP, 2015. The advance amount of Rs 115 crore was released to the government of J&K in September 2016.” Displaced Kashmiri Pandits who soon after the outbreak of militancy in the state were forced to flee Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s observe January 19 as their Holocaust Day.
Responding to the RTI, Congress J&K chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said, “This exposes the BJP government. They don’t even maintain the data. They have no information about killings of Kashmiri Pandits and the cases registered against the terrorists.” He very conveniently ignored the fact that UPA too didn’t register cases or maintained records when it was in power. J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina tried to defend the Modi government and passed on the buck to the Home Ministry. He said, “It shows non-seriousness of some officers at MHA. Hundreds of Pandits were killed. An inquiry commission should be set up so that cases of killings of Pandits can be probed. Congress has no right to speak on Pandits. Congress was a mute spectator when Pandits were driven out.” When some news channel went to Kashmiri refugee camps in Jammu, people living there too expressed their anguish with the present Modi government. One of the residents of this camp said, “We were very happy when Modi became the PM. We had high hopes. Now, we only see him on TV saying ‘Bhayion Aur Beheno’. He has failed. We lost everything in the valley. We had to run away to save our lives. We are facing a lot of difficulties in these camps.” He finished one term and retained power again but we see no hope form this government too as our own people and the so-called custodians have mortgaged their loyalties to BJP and Modi for their personal gains.
(The latter part will continue tomorrow.)
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