Return of Migrants - Some Issues
by P. N. Kalla
WE stand at a juncture of time, when it might be necessary to take a review of the backdrop of events to appreciate the complexity of the situation confronting the uprooted segment of Kashmiri population called migrants.
A bomb blast here and a bomb blast there signalled the onset of militancy in the Valley towards October 1989. An armed attack on a senior police officer gave a sense of seriousness tor the first time to what was to follow. Shocking as the news spread, it was a dare-devil act of a rare occurrence, the people had ever witnessed.
An action programme conceived and planned by the neighbouring country to be executed through a network of indoctrinated and paid agents established and positioned all over the state tor subversion did, not attract any serious attention on the part of the government, despite possible intelligence reports.
The Kashmiri Pandits, in particular, had remained ignorant of the fact of a large number of Muslim youth having crossed the borders to receive training in the use of arms and subversion in Pakistan. Perhaps, it was the result of complacency of living in relative harmony amongst the majority community coupled with a false sense of assurance of living under the constitutional guarantees of the right to live with dignity and honour, practise faith of one's belief and opportunity for progress. Backed by a cultural heritage, we had come to live in an era when universally held human rights gave a sense of assurance to every human being living in an organised and civilised society anywhere in the world.
Pan-Islamic fundamentalists and the theocratic state of Pakistan were ill at ease and worked to destabilise the unity and integrity of secular India. The Kashmir leadership backed by wrong policies of the Central Government progressively prepared the ground and made it fertile for any adversary to foment trouble. This helped the leadership to exploit the geo-political situation solely to perpetuate their self-interest and hold on to power drawing huge funds from Central grants. By undue stress on Muslim character and special status of the state, the leadership succeeded in obstructing an emotional integration with the mainstream. Corruption, nepotism, favouritism in the body politic and administrative machinery left the people largely discontented, as the fruits of development did not reach those for whom it was meant. The Kashmiri Pandits, in particular, suffered a patent discrimination in all walks of life, be it political, economic or educational, with restricted opportunities available in their own land of origin for growth and progress. This was in utter violation of the provisions and spirit of the democratic, secular Constitution of India. Ultimately, the inability on the part of government to protect the life, honour and property of Kashmiri Pandits against the militancy of Islamic crusade in spite of elaborate law and order, administrative and security structure shattered their confidence. The exodus started following the selective killings, kidnappings, torture and more. This was the only option an unarmed minuscule minority could exercise to save its life and honour in the face of various threats issued.
Loss of Identity
The wrongs seem to be so deep-rooted and measures so inadequate and ineffective that despite seven years of fight against the militancy and terrorism, the Valley is still away from the normalcy of the kind where a migrant can think of returning to his home without fear. With the passage of time, the displaced people have grown restive as they continue to suffer indignity, besides physical and mental agony. The damage wrought to the social base, in terms of breaking up and dispersal of families, the loss of identity and psychological set- back is incalculable. The type of ethnic cleansing has an adverse implication and damaging effect on the secular fabric of India and deserve all seriousness in the unity and integrity of the country are to be maintained.
Thc national scene has changed lately. A multi- party coalition government has taken over after the recent Lok Sahha elections. Kashmir stands as a testing ground for the survival of India as an integral nation. The policies of the last 50 years have amply proved that there was something patently wrong with the perceptions, approaches and methods used in dealing with the Kashmir problem.
No doubt, elections to Parliament and the State Assembly have been held, yet it is clear that the turmoil brought in by the militancy resulting in large- scale migration has changed the very basis of the constituency representation as far as the migrant voters were concerned.
India cannot afford to leave weak spots where its secular character, security and integrity are undermined. At the social level, it is necessary to promote a sense of patriotism and national identity. The nation should be intolerant to anti-national activities, no matter where it breeds as it should be for safeguarding human rights of all its citizens.
Given this scenario, would it be possible for the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes in the immediate future, a hope on which every displaced individual has sustained himself so far. What would be his future destiny like? What would be the type of safeguards for his survival in the land of his birth and origin, particularly against fanatic Islamic fundamentalists, who do not believe in co-existence and composite culture that Kashmir essentially represents? What is the type of social environment and attitude that awaits him in his own land? How far would he be allowed to partake in the political, economic, social, cultural and administrative activities as some one who belongs to Kashmir as much as Kashmir belongs to him? Where does he fit in when the idea of granting greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir is talked about and aired by the United Front government leaders? Why can't a minority status be given to this community when the same is allowed at the national level to other minorities and ethnic groups?
Tremendous Material Loss
In regard to the tremendous material loss suffered by the community with houses damaged and burnt, property looted, lands and houses occupied, business shattered, incomes and resources shrunk - what would be the extent and manner of compensation for rehabilitation? What would be the timeframe? How does the government plan new settlements in Kashmir to house the homeless?
These are some of the vital questions to which answers have to be found without any more delay These are the questions which cannot he wished away. The generation of Kashmiri Pandits cannot afford to wait indefinitely as, with the passage of time, they will get absorbed in the struggle of existence in the length and breadth of the country and lose their identity and moorings for all times to come. All social and political organisations which operate at different levels within and outside the state will be failing in their bounden duty if they do not agitate on these issues with all their vigour and with a sense of urgency and objectivity.
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