Sunday, August 3, 2014

Return of Pandits to Kashmir Valley

When clouds of fear and doubt will fly away from Pandit's life
Kashmir was burning in the last years of 80’s and in the beginning of 90’s. It was in those horrible days the valley witnessed mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. They settled in different parts of the nation -Jammu, Delhi etc; refugees in their own country. Now, after more than two decades GoI is planning to bring the Pandits back to the valley by creating exclusive settlements.

Efforts were started in 2008 during UPA government’s tenure (courtesy: Outlook report),

·         “60,452 displaced families registered, 38,119 in Jammu; 19,338 in Delhi; 1,995 in other states
·         6,000 jobs promised; 1,446 jobs actually filled
·         9,000 promised incentives for self-employment; not one youth came forward for self-employment
·         Rs ,618.40 cr package announced; Rs 104.52 cr disbursed to state govt till February 2014
·         Rs 7.5 lakh per family for reconstruction, purchase of houses; one family applied and received grant
·         Rs 5 crore corpus for medical expenses”

Current NDA administration enhanced the package (courtesy: Outlook report),

·         “Rs 500 cr package in the budget
·         Raise grant for houses to Rs 20 lakh
·         Minority status to Pandits in the state
·         Reservation in the assembly
·         Acquire 2,100 acres of land for three enclaves
·         A commission of inquiry or SIT to look into atrocities.”

As expected, separatists are against the package; especially for creating three exclusive settlements. They are even comparing the proposed settlements with that of Israeli ones in West Bank and Gaza. What they are easily forgetting is Pandits were originally from valley. Pandits too have rights to their air and land. They left the valley and became refuges in their own country in 80’s and 90’s to save their own life. Separatists don’t have any right to stop the return of Pandits.

Does government’s plan to create exclusive settlement for Pandits is a good idea? If yes, then for how many years those settlements will remain exclusive? I don’t believe creating a permanent exclusive settlement will be in the interest of either Kashmir or Pandits. As the ground is improving, government should look for mixed townships; which will recreate the bond between Pandits and current local population.

Of course, spread out resettlement plan is a security nightmare as it won’t be easy for the administration to provide tight security in such situation, compared to three exclusive settlements. Still I would like to see the administration go for a mixed township of 5-6 instead of three exclusive ones.


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