The Jammu-based Daily Excelsior of 27 November 2014 carried on its front page the news item under the heading ‘New package for KPs: Centre’. Actually the newspaper reproduced some excerpts from the speech of Union Minister of State for Home made in the Rajya Sabha. The crux of minister’s statement is that the State government had submitted a proposal seeking enhancement of financial support for various components of the package announced by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008. Thereafter the Minister went on to recount what assistance the Centre had provided to the internally displaced Pandits of Kashmir.
It is unfortunate that the Union Minister of State for Home has made only a perfunctory if not irresponsible statement on a sensitive issue which stands out prominently in the agenda of BJP’s election manifesto. The issue merited serious and solemn consideration that would unfold the vision of the Union government, if it has one, about a national issue whose ramifications touch on the very philosophy of Indian State. He has circumvented the core issue as smartly as the author of the 2008 package Manmohan Singh had done in his turn.
Does recounting of 24 year-long story of assistances given to Kashmiri Pandit IDPs help in any way in bringing the community anywhere close to the solution of their forced exile from their homeland? The kind and quantum of assistance given to them is not an obligation on them; it is the price that a guilty conscience pays to absolve itself of crime against humanity.
NC-Congress combine ruled over the State in 1990 when armed insurgency broke out. Intelligence failed, security failed and administration collapsed. Those who ruled over the State till yesterday abandoned the defenceless KP minority community to the bullets and bombs of maraudering “freedom fighters” while they ran away to Jammu (or to play golf in London) to enjoy secured life in government bungalows with high scale round the clock police protection. The Government in New Delhi raised not an eyebrow. This is how the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi ganged up to throw to winds the Constitution of India and of J&K State, which enjoined upon the government to provide protection of life and property to the citizens. Nearly half a million Indian troops posted in the Valley at that juncture remained silent spectators with folded arms in their barracks while those who they were supposed to protect were getting killed, lynched and raped.
Should not have the Prime Minister’s so-called Package of 2008 asked why and how this tragedy happened? Should not the Indian Supreme Court have taken up suo moto inquiry into this case of blatant ethnic cleansing in Kashmir? Instead of raising the issue of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir in international fora, the GOI contrarily, took care to avoid raising the issue in international fora particularly at the UN Human Rights Commission (now Council). Why was the 2008 package silent on that? Should the Modi government’s Minister of State for Home feel proud of invoking the 2008 package?
Days after the 2008 package was announced, JK Nationalist Movement issued a pamphlet under the title ‘PM’s Package – A Critique’ in which it explained how the package diluted the entire issue of the Pandit IDPs and manoeuvred to identify four other groups as victims of militancy and made them partners in the package that was given enormous media hype. The pamphlet brought out how the 1618.40 crore package was given the name of Package for KPs while actually the share of the Pandits was only one-fifth of this amount.
The pamphlet said that the core issue was neither of quanta of aid, nor of their return and rehabilitation in Kashmir; it was of ground realities and functionality of secular democratic dispensation enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The core question is this: Is India reconciled to ethnic cleansing of the valley of its Hindu population in the State of Jammu and Kashmir which is the only Muslim majority State of the Indian Union?
As against rupees 6000 per month per family of 4 members or more of KP displaced persons, Indian government poured trillions of rupees into the valley in last 24 years. Have the Kashmir displaced persons a share in that? Who are the beneficiaries of that enormous largesse? As against 1400 teachers and lower rank functionaries appointed under the 2008 package, the State government has recruited no fewer than nine lakh youth in the valley in government vacancies during 24 years of turmoil. These questions come as corollaries of the core issue to which the Pandits had referred in the pamphlet.
Modi government will be making a historical mistake if it thinks it can hoodwink the Pandits by reviving the 2008 misnomer of package and sweet coat it with patent rhetoric. Reviving that package is a subtle way of circumventing the core issue. The core issue is that the Indian nation has to be convinced that the Hindu minority in the valley is treated at par with the Muslim minority in any part of India plus other safeguards that would assure their participation in the process of nation building Article 370 notwithstanding.
For a Kashmiri Pandit back in the valley, it is not important whether he has got back his home, his business centre, his orchard, his land, his job etc. What is important and decisive for him is whether the India tricolour flutters anywhere around him on public or private buildings or a housetop? What concerns him is whether his school going kid begins his day with the recitation of the national anthem. What concerns him is whether he can freely and fearlessly go to see the 26 January Republic Day Parade or 15 August Independence Day festival without the gun fire cracked from militants Kalashnikov? What concerns him is whether in a public rally the local political leader speaks of secularism, minority rights, human rights and not doles out a litany of aspersions and abuses on Indian State. What concerns him is whether or not the Indian State is reconciled to bright illumination on 14th August of entire valley but total strike and boycott and black out on 15th August. What will concern him is that in return for thousands of crores of rupees which the Indian tax payer offers to Kashmir by way of flood relief Kashmiris reciprocate it by call for strike on the visit of the PM to the valley for election campaign. Displaced Pandit wants to bask in the sun of “kashmiriyat” and not become an inmate of Wahhabi/Salafi prison house.
Mr. Minister of State for Home, Sir, please do not give way to anger and hatred. Please maintain your calm and try to understand what is said in these lines. It will stand your government in good stead to replace rhetoric with realism. Do not talk of return and rehabilitation of the crisis ridden community, talk of whether your feet are on solid ground in Kashmir.
Kashi N. Pandita is the former Director of the Institute of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University in India. He is now a freelance journalist based in India.