The NATIONFIRST, 2019 election manifesto of BJP contained a reference to Jammu and Kashmir which read,
• We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb.
With the hope that the BJP may perhaps now settle the issue of Kashmiri Pandit Migrants and rehabilitate them in the valley, 86 % of the votes polled by the migrants in this election were polled in favour of BJP. 52 % of the total votes received by BJP in Kashmir Region came from Kashmiri Pandit Community.
It would be prudent to note that no action has been taken in the matter of the Permanent Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes, during the last 10-year rule of NDA (1.0 and 2.0.)
We may recall the the relevant part of the 2014 NDA manifesto i.e., Jammu and Kashmir, was, is, and shall remain an integral part of the Union of India. The territorial integrity of India is inviolable. BJP will pursue an agenda of equal and rapid development in all the three regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
• The return of Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood will figure high on the BJP’s agenda.
Interesting to note that in the year 2015 a notification was issued by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, Jammu, for Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit Migrants, stating that “The families (of displaced Kashmiri Migrants) are advised to furnish their plan of return to the Valley so that necessary arrangements can be made for their return”. The notification further said that incentives under the Prime Minister’s Package for the Kashmiri Migrants would be made available to them.
In response, out of the nearly 44089 migrant families registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, Jammu, nearly 4500 applications were received across all districts of the Kashmir Valley (except District Bandipora) - with the majority of applications received from District Srinagar (around 1250).
The NDA 1.0 Government, after assuming office in 2014, had earmarked Rs 500 Crore for rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits who had migrated from the valley since January 19, 1990 following the rise in militancy. However, post 2014 no such fund was earmarked for permanent rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits.
The LG led JK administration and the Central Government made significant progress in Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 by ensuring reduction in terrorist related activities, increasing tourism multifold, Investments to J&K increased & large scale infrastructure development took place. Despite all the above highlighted achievements during NDA 2.0 –the Central Government was incapable of conducting Assembly Election & restoring full democracy.
Furthermore, the exiled community (Kashmiri Pandits) had hoped to see the blueprint of their return to the valley with dignity & honor during the NDA 2.0, but the 2019 & 2014 commitments proved to be failed or false promises only and an election gimmick. Many aspiration of the community in general still persist with respect their rehabilitation, like township.
Township: Most of Kashmir Pandit bodies have requested time and again the government to develop a ‘Satellite Township’ based on the concept of ‘New Smart City’ such that the Kashmiri Pandits and also other communities can live in this township in harmony. Building such a township is not a big deal for the Government. Even private builders are building such townships across the country over a few hundred acres.
The township should be self-sufficient in terms of security, infrastructure, economic avenues, decent housing, educational institutions, health care facilities, recreation centres, commercial complexes, etc. The township can have an IT Park, a small university, good schools, industrial park etc. This shall make it self-sustaining. This seems to be a very plausible way to deal with the situation such as to rehabilitate the community back in the valley.
Temples and Shrines Bill: After the exodus of the community from Kashmir in 1989-90, the temples, shrines, pilgrimage centers, Matts, etc., which represents our age-old heritage, handed down through hundreds of years of continuing tradition, have suffered enormously due to desecration, neglect and poor management. What has added to their present sorry state is the wide spread encroachment of their lands and estates by unscrupulous elements, sometimes even with official connivance. To protect and preserve these institutions of heritage, the draft bill (Temples and Shrines preservation) is long pending.
Political Empowerment of Kashmiri Pandits: The Government of the day has approved and announced 02 seats in the legislative assembly to remain reserved for the Kashmiri Migrants with a rider that these shall be allotted by selection/nomination and not through the process of election and one seat is reserved for women
Why selection/nomination. Who selects. Does a nominated/selected person really have his own strength to speak or act.
The seats are reserved for Kashmiri Migrants. Besides Kashmiri Pandits the Sikhs and some Muslims are also registered as migrants.
In view of the aspirations of the community 32-Sangha constituency type model was any day better for the Kashmiri Pandit community than nominated members.
It was our earnest hope that the Central Government will take some concrete and meaningful steps to facilitate the Permanent return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with dignity, whereas even after 10 years it has become an election slogan only.
Finally the formation of the truth and reconciliation commission, as even directed by Honorable Justice Sanjay K Kaul, may be a big step to bring back peace to the region and lead to Modi's Naya Kashmir .