On January 19, 1990, Kashmiri Pandits in the valley came face to face with their worse nightmare, when in the dead of the night they were told through blaring threats and slogans to flee the state, convert or die. Majority of those who fled were minority Hindu Brahmins, commonly referred to as Pandits. Over the years, members of the Sikh community, and even Muslims, left.
Today, exactly 27 years from the day that marked the exodus of the Pandit community, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly unanimously passed a resolution for the return of all Kashmiri migrants to the Valley.
“A good conducive atmosphere should be created for their safe return to the valley,” J&K Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta, said while passing the resolution.
The resolution was proposed by former chief minister, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah, and both the opposition leader and the ruling PDP-BJP government lost no time in patting themselves on the back for the move.
But what do Kashmiri Pandit activists make of the resolution?
“It’s a joke. This move is a ploy to fool people,” said Dr Sandeep Mawa, chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Reconciliation Front.
It’s not like Mawa is not welcoming the resolution. “It was long overdue. In that way, it’s historic,” he said.
“First, pause and let the fact sink in that it took 27 years for the J&K assembly to be unanimous on rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. Why did they not do it all these years? Were they waiting for a century to be passed before agreeing on this?” Mawa said.
It’s also important to mention here that Omar Abdullah was strongly criticised by Independent MLA and leader of regional Awami Itehad Party, Sheikh Abdur Rashid, for “giving a notion that the issue of return of migrant Pandits is the only burning issue.”
According to Mawa, it’s also a clear indication about why the resolution was passed and he said the motive was purely political.
“Elections in UP and other key states are on the cards. The ruling BJP has to project itself as the party of the Hindus. Hence the timing,” Mawa, whose campaign for communal harmony last year received acclaim, said.
“If it (the BJP) were serious about the cause of Kashmiri Pandits, it wouldn’t have let us suffer over the past three decades. They had ample opportunities in the 1990s itself,” he said.
Flawed rehabilitation policy
Mawa says the government’s plan for the rehabilitation of Pandit community, which involves building separate colonies for Pandits, is itself full of problems.
“Ghettoisation won’t work. Two communities can live in a city only when they live together. Some bureaucrats sitting in Delhi are deciding the fate of the majority and minority communities here, and have come up with a joke of a solution,” he said.
Sanjay Tikoo, president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangaresh Samiti (a valley-based group of Pandits), also questioned the intent behind this resolution.
“I am happy with the resolution because it’s a step in the right direction. But it doesn’t seem backed by will,” he said.
Why does he say that? “Because no party is doing anything to actually create a conducive atmosphere for the return of the Pandits. Simply put, they are not getting residents involved. The parties are not doing anything to convince their cadres,” he said.
Tikoo referred to the 2015 hartal and agitation called by separatists against the Mufti government against composite townships in the Valley. How could a assembly resolution change the ground reality, he said.
“Building colonies won’t suffice, you have to create an atmosphere for harmony so that Pandits are willing to return,” Tikoo said.