The summer has arrived in Kashmir. Tourism is picking up in valley after the devastating floods. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his deputy Dr. Nirmal Singh was in Mumbai recently for promoting the state as prime tourist destination and shooting location for Bollywood movies. Meanwhile, Kashmiri separatists are back in action in valley, protesting against the proposed plan of the resettlement of Kashmiri Hindus in ‘composite townships’. The separatists’ views are echoed by the mainstream political parties like National Conference and Indian National Congress.
Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani has issued a diktat that the annual Amarnath yatra should be restricted to 30 days for “safety of pilgrims and protection of environment”. In the summer season, hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees from all over the country arrive in Jammu and Kashmir to take part in pilgrimage to a holy mountain shrine – Amarnath Cave. This year, the yatra to the holy shrine will be for 59 days starting from July 2. These Kashmiri separatists and their supporters have a habit of fomenting controversies and trouble whenever the holy Amarnath Yatra is going to take place – a routine exercise every year.
Amidst this entire hubbub, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits gathered today in sweltering heat at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding from the Indian Government that the community of Kashmiri Hindus must be consulted and taken in to confidence before proposing any plan for their return. For the return and rehabilitation of the minority Hindus back in Kashmir, there are only two stakeholders – the Government of India and the community of Kashmiri Hindus. No one else has a say in this. I reiterate – no one else.
Kashmiri Hindus don’t have faith in present Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Whatever little faith was there with the formation of new government in J&K state, it was marred by controversies like thanking separatists and Pakistan for successful elections in the state, release of separatist Masarat Alam, doing a U-turn on the townships for Pandits in Kashmir etc.
Frankly speaking, Pandits don’t trust Kashmiri politicians – be it Abdullahs, Muftis or others – because of their demeanour in the last two and half decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government need to understand that. The onus lies on Narendra Modi on whom the Pandit community placed faith in resolving their issues as he emerged as a person of hope and optimism not only for Pandits but also for the entire country.
The return plan of Kashmiri Hindus must include the following key things:
- Setting up of a commission/inquiry committee for probing the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus
- Prosecution of those responsible for the killings and the forced mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir
- Restoration of all the desecrated temples and shrines of Kashmiri Hindus in valley
In addition to that, the issues of those Kashmiri Pandits who chose to stay back in Kashmir need to be addressed. These non-displaced Pandits are very much part of the community and their demands – social, political or economic – need to be taken in to account. They are also part of the larger debate of the resettlement of the ethnic Pandit community in Kashmir once and for all and must not be ignored.
On the return of Hindus back to Kashmir, there are divergent views. Panun Kashmir, one of the frontline organizations of the community, demands separate homeland to be carved out for Kashmiri Hindus in valley which will be a union territory without any fetters of Article 370. There are others who don’t subscribe to this view. Though, there may be difference in opinion but one thing is common cutting across all the Pandit organizations – safe and dignified return back to Kashmir valley.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi must talk to the community of Kashmiri Hindus – all the Kashmiri Hindu organizations – before formulating any plan for their resettlement. A one-on-one discussion between the Prime Minister of India and the Kashmiri Hindu community is a must without any meddling by the separatists or valley-based mainstream politicians.
A placard in today’s protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi sums up very well the current predicament – Modi blinks, hope sinks.
(Published in The Newsminute)