Monday, May 20, 2013

Return to the valley

Recently I read a news report which said that only One Kashmiri Pandit family has returned to the valley under the Prime Minister Package for Kashmiri Migrants.  And I am sure that many would have presumed that Kashmiri Pandits do not want to go back for various reasons including much assumed that the community is now economically much better outside valley.
The problem is that the vision and thought process of main stream media, politician and bureaucrats is myopic. The all so called strategic thinkers forget to look at the root cause of exodus and link everything to economics and even these economic measures are half hearted & half baked. Soon Congress and other political parties including BJP will start claiming that we have done everything (everything means giving monetary incentive) and still Kashmiri Pandits are not taking it and hence we can’t do more.
I don’t find anything surprising with such thought process of our politicians. A system that instead of creating employment opportunities, promises food for free can’t think beyond aids and grants.
Now let’s look at the root cause of Kashmiri Hindus exoduses till date including the last exodus of 1990.  The last exodus is the 7th exodus of a community which has been living in the valley for the past 5000 years. A community which has 100% literacy rate, almost negligible crime rate and one of the most progressive communities in the country. A community which gave up caste system long time back. And these exoduses are different from migration, a word which GOI uses to describe the ethnic cleaning of Hindus in the valley
The Kashmiri Pandit population in Kashmir was never rich and would have had a very small percentage of people who could even qualify to be called upper middle class. But then rarely did anyone qualify into BPL category. The Kashmiri Pandits earned decent enough to provide well for their family and take care of their day to day needs and occasional luxuries. All families were content and economic status played no role in social system of the Pandit community. What mattered more was the educational qualification and a decent job, preferably   government job
All the exoduses till date have happened primarily because of religious persecution. Whether it was Sikander Butshikan, Aurangzeb or Afghans, all exoduses were because of fanatical zeal to convert the Hindu population to Islam. They leashed atrocities unheard of, including but not limited to killing, burning alive, demolishing temple and learning institutions and kidnapping and raping of women.  The famous Hari Parbat Hill in Srinagar is also known as Koh-e-maran, which means mound of dead bodies. Even today there is an area in Srinagar known as Batt Mazar, the grave yards of Kashmiri Hindus.
Even when Kashmiri Pandits approached Guru Teg Bahadur or Maharaja Ranjit Singh, it was to save them from the religious persecution and not ask for support to migrate out of valley. There has been word ‘Kashmiryat’ used quite often to describe to the secular atmosphere of the valley. This word has been used more often by the persecutor than the persecuted. Often it is mentioned that Kashmir has been largely riot free even during worse communal tension in the rest of India. But even simple application of common sense will tell that all this is a lie. In 700 years, Kashmiri Hindus have been killed in lakhs, persecuted and discriminated. Someone needs to understand that it takes two to riot. And with Kashmiri Pandits never resorting to a violence, it was always at the receiving end from the majority community. How can there be ‘Kashmiryat’ when 2% most docile and peaceful minority was hounded out of its 5000 year old inhabitation in one single night? How can there be Kashmiriyat when the same minority was threatened, persecuted and killed?
The Government of India along with State Government appears to be lost and seems have to have no solid plan for the return of the displaced community. The Shrine and Temple Bill has been pending for 10 years, and now there are efforts from the ruling party to include Kashmiri Muslims in the management of Hindu Temples. Such acts surely not inspire any confidence in the minority community.
Recently the team of interlocutors suggested a twin-city concept. The concept proposes to build and develop a second city in the proximity of old Srinagar. The new city will become the habitat of all internally displaced as well as any number of local families in need of rehabilitation. So under the garb of twin city, the Pandits are expected to live in the same regime and with the same neighbour directly or indirectly were responsible for his current situation the first place. GOI wants Kashmiri Pandits to go back without even a fake effort of confidence building measure. There has been not a single conviction of the crimes committed against the minority community in the last 23 years. As per Panun Kashmir records around 3000 Kashmiri Pandits have been killed in the various terrorist activities. Even state governments own record show more than thousand killings. The prominent killers like Yasin Malik and Bitta Karate, who have publicly admitted to killing of the minority community and defence personnel are today treated as VIPs and PM of India openly meets and greets them. Bitta Karate got a rousing welcome from the locals in Srinagar on his acquittal by court. This despite of fact that the judge highlighting that Bitta Karate was being acquitted for poor and shoddy investigation by CBI and not that there was conclusive roof of his innocence.
Yes, Kashmiri Pandits are determined to return to their homeland but this return will  happen only they are sure that they will live as citizens with equal rights and honour and will not be hounded out again.