OUR NEGLECTED BRETHREN IN KASHMIR
Whereas the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora outside Kashmir has attracted media attention, particularly during the past decade, those of our community members who chose to stay back and face whatever consequences followed, have not attracted the same degree of attention either from the media or from the government, ever since 1989-90, when nearly the complete Kashmiri Pandit population were ruthlessly cleansed out from the valley.
Recently, Sh Sanjay Tikoo, President, Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti, a Kashmir – based organization of left-over Kashmiri Pandits had to undertake a fast unto death, to force the government of JKUT to accede to his just and ordinary demands. These demands are so routine that in a democracy no one needs to resort to ‘Fast unto Death’ to attract government attention and force the government to accept such demands. But such has been the neglect of our Community members still living in Kashmir, that Sh Sanjay Tikoo had to resort to this unusual form of protest. Sh. Sanjay Tikoo’s fast, KPSS’ demands, govt reaction to this fast and other allied details are covered elsewhere in this issue of Naad, as part of its cover story.
As if the utter neglect of our people in Kashmir was not bad enough, those young people who have taken up jobs in JKUT, particularly in Kashmir, as part of PM package, too have been facing discrimination through various acts of omission and commission on the part of the state administration. To start with, their ‘terms and conditions’ of employment where draconian to say the least. To add to their woes, their living conditions have been pathetic and despite many requests, protests, etc., these continue to be so. The facilities being provided to them are sub-standard, poor, and unworthy of human habitation. With the security threat constantly hanging over their heads, their lives are miserable. It is obvious that the UT administration is treating them as children of the lesser God.
It is amazing that while the government at the centre and the administration at JKUT level have been proclaiming their intention to persuade the displaced Kashmiri Pandits to return to Kashmir, the same government is not able to provide even basic facilities to those who continue to live in Kashmir. The simple question any right-thinking person will ask, “How is the Government expecting to motivate the displaced KPs to return to Kashmir, when those who are already there are being treated so shabbily?” A couple of months back one of our community Sarpanchs, Sh. Ajay Bharti, was gunned down in broad day light in his village. This brutal killing induced so much fear among the minuscule population of the community in Kashmir that many fled to Jammu. Such fear for their own security has made matters even worse for them in Kashmir. With no guarantee of their security and pathetic living conditions, it is difficult to convince our Kashmiri diaspora living in various parts of the country and abroad to return to Kashmir.
It needs to be reiterated that Kashmiri Pandits, as the aborigines of Kashmir, cannot and will not give up their claim on their motherland. Unless they return to Kashmir with honor and dignity in a secure environment, any claims made by the Central Government and JKUT about the normalization of the situation in Kashmir, will sound hollow. It is a well-known fact Kashmir issue has international ramifications and is a many-layered problem. One of its many layers hides the naked truth that nearly the whole lot of Hindus were cleansed out by heavily armed Islamists from one part of its country that espouses secularism as the bedrock of its democratic existence. Therefore, its reversal will remain a centre point of India’s fight against forces of extremism, violence and Islamic radicalism within Kashmir and its sponsors outside Kashmir.
It is more than a year since the insidious Art 370 and 35 A were neutered by the Parliament of India. However, there has been little movement on the issue of rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri Pandits. This, coupled with poor living conditions of our brethren in Kashmir and their insecure living environment, have created doubts and cynicism in the minds of the KP diaspora about the intentions of the central government. It is hoped that government will act fast to take some visible action on this important issue. To begin with, the JKUT administration needs to improve the living conditions of the left-over Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. This is not asking for too much. END
-Col. Tej K Tikoo