Kashmiri Pandit migrants have once again rejected the latest formula chalked out by the state government for their return to Kashmir valley. The Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather while
presenting this year’s budget in the state assembly last month had offered liberal incentives to the migrant Kashmiris for return and resettlement at their homes and hearths in the valley, which they were forced to leave in 1990 and later, in the face of virtual genocide and operation cleansing of all minorities resorted to by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Kashmir. The minority Hindus and Sikhs were subjected to selective killings, looting of their property, desecration of their religious places, their women folk gang raped and honour of many plundered, besides holding of threats to them by the mischievous anti national and anti social elements. Their living in Kashmir with dignity, expressing their views freely, defying the dictates of religious fanatic marauders had become almost impossible. This forced them to leave their homes and hearths and the ancestral property, to migrate to Jammu or other places in the state and the country. Since then, i.e. for last 18 to 19 years they have been leading a life of internally displaced persons, with the status of migrants accorded to them.
During first six years of height of militancy in Kashmir, when the civil administration had almost totally collapsed and the writ of Islamic terrorists ran there, the return of these migrants could not be thought of. Besides the members of minority communities, a good number of Muslim majority community members, on terrorists’ hit list or under threat from them, were forced to migrate to Jammu and were accorded the status of migrants with some relief provided by the government to all sections of the migrants. Besides cash dole and regular salaries to the migrant government employees, being given to them without discharging any duty, monthly ration as well as moderate accommodation free of charges was also provided to them.
After 1996, with militancy to a great extent controlled and the Jehadis at the receiving end, as a result of which a semblance of civil administration and law and order was restored in the valley. Since then several formulae have been chalked out and offered by the government to the Kashmiri migrants to return and resettle in the valley. The political migrants i.e. political leaders of various mainstream parties belonging to Muslim community gradually returned to their homes, while the minority community migrants, mainly the Kashmiri pundits have remained hesitant to take the risk once again. Their concern of their security and living with dignity back in Kashmir has some sound reasons. Whenever return formula of migrant minority community members is initiated, some vested interests in Kashmir, including the hardcore Islamists and even some elements in the administration have been sabotaging the same. Frequently incidents of mass killings and carnage is resorted to by the left over terrorists, to scare away the migrants to return to their homes and hearths.
While the ultimate return of migrant Hindus and Sikhs, particularly the Kashmiri Pandits, who are the original inhabitants of the valley, whose roots are deeply enshrined there and who have their socio-cultural and religious heritage in Kashmir, is in their own interest as well as in the interest of the country. Kashmiri Pandits return and resettlement in the valley is a guarantee for upholding of secular traditions in Kashmir as well as in the interest of national integration and strengthening of Indian nationalist view point in Kashmir, where the voices of secession and separatism are getting shriller and shriller day by day. Yet for their return and living there with dignity, there must be some guarantee of their safety and security. Their lodging in clusters at new settlements exclusively for the members of particular community, will neither be in the ultimate interest of the community nor of the nation as a whole, if they have to live as refugees in Kashmir valley, it is better that they continue to stay put in Jammu or at other places where they are lodging themselves at present. The ideal scenario will be the KPs and other members of the minority communities living back in their homes from where they were hounded out about two decades back. They must live in the neighbourhood of Muslim inhabitants. The same confidence and good will that prevailed between the members of two communities about two decades ago needs be restored. Some of the members of migrant KPs might have developed some vested interests in not going back to their homes in the valley, yet in the case of majority of them they yearn for the old days to return, to make it possible for them to live in the same atmosphere of security and dignity.