When nearly half a million Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) were cleansed out of Kashmir between January 1990 and March 1991, the indifference to their plight, which the KPs witnessed in the rest of the country, shocked them no end. At that time, except for some voluntary assistance provided by a few BJP /RSS cadres, the displaced community was, by and large, left to fend for themselves. 

One of the reasons for this apathy was the epitaph of ‘Pandit’ attached to the community. In a country where cast still plays an important role at societal level, this identification went against it. This post is not about the complicity of the government of the day in our exodus, or the utter failure of the media to highlight our plight. These have been documented well enough.

Having been uprooted from their native place after facing genocide, purely because they belonged to a different faith than the majority community of Kashmir, it took them nearly two decades to somehow settle down in completely alien environment. Thousands spent years in hastily-established refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. 

These camps had tattered tents, no sanitation or medical facility, and no schools. For company, they had snakes and scorpions in the shrubs and tall grasses and rocky terrain in which the camps had been established. Living in such unhealthy and primitive conditions caused thousands more to die due to heat, stress-related health issues, and suffering the adverse psychological impact of loss of own dwellings/ possessions in Kashmir and loss of livelihood, etc.

In the later years of their exodus, the children of the displaced were greatly helped when Balasaheb Thakrey, the Shiv Sena founder, who provided seats to the wards of the displaced in various professional colleges of Maharashtra. It will be difficult to name many within and outside the community who were instrumental in persuading the great man to provide this valuable facility to the displaced youth.

By the end of 2013, the displaced community had got used to the idea that the Indian State was unwilling or incapable of rehabilitating them back in Kashmir. BJP’s six years’ rule between 1998 &2004, during which the centre took no initiative to ameliorate the lot of the displaced Pandits, had largely contributed to this cynicism. On their own, the KPs were powerless to change the ground situation in Kashmir.

With the coming to power of Narendra Modi at the centre in 2014, the cynicism gave way to optimism. Some of the initiatives taken by Modi government further reinforced the belief of the community that their rehabilitation was now likely to gain traction; this, despite the fact that BJP had decided to form a government in alliance with a soft separatist and rabid Islamist like Mehbooba Mufti. 

However, as the years rolled by, it was becoming clearer by the day that KP rehabilitation was not among the centre’s priorities. Some of the statements emanating at the highest level of the government, which simply added insult to the community’s injury, further reinforced this belief.

In my opinion, the Modi-government’s Kashmir policy is characterized by the following features:

Make best use of the central government’s aid/grants/ budget, etc., in JKUT by trying to eliminate wide-spread corruption in the UT.

Disempower the those mainstream politicians who exercised a vice-like grip on the power structure of the state for decades and had become a part of the problem through their  corrupt practices, nepotism and double-speak. With the excessive influence they exercised on the movers and shakers in Delhi, these politicians literally ruled the roost in the state.

Deal firmly with the separatists, their cohorts and their OGWs in government and civil society. Neutralize their armed cadres and de-radicalize the Kashmir society.

Create a new political leadership in Kashmir that does not carry the baggage of the past. Hope that such political leadership will join hands with BJP whenever the elections are held in the UT.

Deal with Pakistan in a manner that diplomatically and politically it cease to be an influencer in Kashmir; and militarily is rendered incapable of intervening through force in support of its sponsored-insurgency.

Modi-Shah combine feel that in all this strategy, KPs have no place and hence deserve no consideration. 

Another factor that seems to influence the Modi-government’s attitude towards the KPs is the bias that bureaucracy has against the community. It (the bureaucracy) feels that KP bureaucrats/advisors exercised enormous influence during the Nehru-Indira era, much out of proportion to their size in the bureaucracy or the population. One top bureaucrat (now a central minister) once told a KP delegation, “I will see that sun sets on your community.” This incident was narrated to me some years back by a person who was part of the delegation.

So, should KPs give up on their claim to Kashmir? No way. END.

Col Tej K Tikoo

Destroyed Hindu Temples In Kashmir | From 1986 to 2018 Part-1

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