Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kashmiri Pandits cheated-by Wilson John(Pioneer)

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnist1.asp?main_variable=Columnist&file_name=john%2Fjohn128%2Etxt&writer=john

After being raped, killed, looted and chased out of their homes in Kashmir Valley, the Pandits are now being offered a 'township' outside Jammu. The Indian state has truly become effete. Manmohan Singh has just proved this point again Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a major failing: His inability to look within and figure out solutions to problems that may be politically volatile, like the issue of Kashmiri Pandits who have been living in refugee camps after being chased out of their homes in Kashmir Valley by Islamist terrorists and their sympathisers.
Last Sunday, Mr Singh went to Jammu to accept an honorary Degree of Letters at the University of Jammu. In his address, he added a new meaning and 'spirit' to the term Line of Control (LoC), and said it should be turned into a 'Line of Peace'. It was no doubt a carefully thought out and bold statement to make; conceptually, it breaks old myths and doubts and brings forth new possibilities of cooperation. The same day, he laid the foundation of a city for the Kashmiri Pandits on the outskirts of Jammu.
So, within a span of few hours, we had the Prime Minister drawing a new 'Line of Peace' with India's arch adversary Pakistan - a commendable initiative - and forever foreclosing even the remotest possibility of the Kashmiri Pandits returning to their homes in the land of their ancestors. Nothing could be more telling of Mr Singh's (or his advisers') priorities - foreign policy over domestic interests.
To give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, as the top representative of the Indian state, he might be doing his bit in playing down the complete failure of the state to protect its own citizens. It is no doubt a national shame.
The fact that Muslim terrorists and their sympathisers systematically kept driving out more than 3,00,000 (some put the figure at 5,00,000) Hindus from their homes for over a period of five years even as India, the largest democracy in the world and one of the most powerful military powers in Asia, looked the other way.
The horrors perpetrated on Kashmiri Pandits, as much a part of Kashmir culture and social life as Muslim residents, are innumerable, and documented minutely.
To recall just one day in the life of a Kashmiri Pandit in the Valley: On February 21, 1986, 40 temples were desecrated, 1,500 houses were looted and 300 of them set ablaze. In the years that followed, more than 1,000 Pandits were killed and another 1,000 abducted. Terrorists and their sympathisers systematically targeted the Pandits living in the Valley; kidnapping, raping and looting to instil raw fear.
Those Hindus who withstood the onslaught and held on to their home and hearth were mercilessly killed. The brutal murder of poet and scholar Sarwanand Koul Premi was part of this ethnic cleansing.
In the case of Pandits, ironies never cease to exist. When they began to flee their homes out of fear compounded by the failure of the Government to protect them, the only action the Indian state could think of was to set up shanty towns for the refugees in the Jammu region, Delhi and other places, offer them pittance as survival allowance and buckets full of sympathy and rhetoric. Successive Governments have spoken of the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes.
The ML Koul Committee, one of the many committees set up to figure out the problem and recommend solutions, submitted its report on July 24, 1997 (roughly 10 years ago). In the report, it recommended a provision of Rs 2, 589.73 crore for the return and rehabilitation of the Pandits. The money was meant for the construction of 7,000 transit settlements in Srinagar, Baramullah and Anantnag; rehabilitation grant to each family, aid for repairs of damaged houses, grant for household goods and furniture, waiver of business loans, compensation for loss of income from agriculture, security and incentives for unemployed youth.
Obviously, no one remembers the committee and its report. But thousands of crores of rupees have been spent. A few have certainly benefited in the name of welfare for the Kashmiri Pandits. Golf courses have been laid out. Shopping malls have sprouted. Expensive cars have begun appearing on the roads. Some have flown off to Singapore for shopping and Switzerland for holidays. Money, no doubt, has been spent, but none of it on the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir Valley.
On top of it, New Delhi has released Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, notorious for killing at least 100 Pandits, during the Kandahar hijacking episode. Today he roams freely in Pakistan and no one in the Government of India really wants him back to stand trial.
Four years ago, at a conference on Kashmiri Pandits in New Delhi, Mr Manmohan Singh had said, "What has happened to the Pandit community in the Valley is a great national tragedy. I would say a great human tragedy. Therefore, whatever can be done to relieve their pain and suffering is in the wider national interest... The long-term objective has to be to enable the Pandit community, and all those who want to go back to the Valley, to return and lead a life of dignity and self-respect."
The satellite township for Kashmiri Pandits on the outskirts of Jammu negates both letter and spirit of Mr Singh's comments. The Pandits are now forever condemned to live like refugees in their own homeland. There is no hope of their return. Their dignity and self-respect have been sacrificed for myopic, opportunist politics.
To be fair, Mr Singh should not bear the entire blame for this shame. The only regret is he, who has the vision and courage to upset so many pre-conceived notions and positions - and is in a position to undo the past and chart a new course - has chosen the easy path. --

1 comment:

Rivka said...

Well written article.