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Ghettos for the Pandits?

Ghettos for the Pandits?

The PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir has stirred up controversy by announcing its plan to bring back the Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu community that left the state two and a half decades ago.

The new government has proposed plans to rehabilitate the Pandits by building composite townships for them in the Kashmir Valley and was mentioned in their common minimum program (CMP). Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed told Home Minister Rajnath Singh that the state government would acquire land for the purpose at the earliest and provide the community a safe and an inclusive environment. The townships are aimed at ensuring that Pandit community is not forced to live in ghettos. But the move has sparked criticisms with the mainstream political parties, opposition parties, Hurriyat Conference and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) strongly opposing the move by the government and terming it as a “conspiracy” against the composite culture of the Valley.

The groups have called for demonstrations across the state on Friday and a one-day shutdown on Saturday. The atmosphere in the state is likely to worsen in the coming days. The Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that the government decision was to create Israeli-type settlements in Kashmir. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik said that the RSS was inspired by the Israeli settlements in Palestine and wanted to implement the same in the valley. The groups strongly came forward saying the PDP-BJP wanted to divide Kashmir along religious lines. Kashmir’s oldest mainstream political party, National Conference also objected to the move saying that it was “detrimental to the idea of reconciliation” between the two communities. The BJP and the RSS have always approached the Kashmir issue narrow-mindedly. The sensitive issue has been a tasty bone of contention between India and Pakistan for years. The Kashmir issue is solely political and there have not been any religious disputes or communal riots between the communities in the Valley. The people belonging to different religions have peacefully coexisted in Kashmir.

The Pandit families, who come to about 62, 000, had moved from the Valley to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country in the wake of militancy more than two decades back and not because of the fear of the Muslim community. No community has ever wanted the Pandits to not return to the state or degrade them as secondary citizens. Diving and rehabilitating the people along religious and communal lines, would only lead to the circumstances akin to Hitler’s Germany. The moves by Jagmohan Malhotra, former governor of Kashmir during 1984-89, contributed to the growth of terrorism in the state. He deployed the army and took several steps that aggravated the scenario. During the budget for 2015-16, Rs 580 crore has been earmarked by the Centre for rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits. The Finance Minister has also announced an aid of Rs, 20 lakh for each Pandit family across the country neglecting the same number of impoverished and displaced victims of communal violence. The government apparently is not concerned about resolving the matter and restoring peace but merely in politicising and communalising the issue. The move is aimed at isolating and distancing the communities from one another. But the attempt by the government to turn Kashmir into another Palestine is likely to be fought with strong resistance from every side.

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