Modi govt's rehabilitation plan gives hope to Kashmiri Pandits

Wednesday 15th April 2015 06:33 EDT

Amidst protests in Jammu and Kashmir over settlement of Kashmiri Pandits, the Modi government said it was committed to the "dignified and secured" return of the displaced community to their place of origin and that the issue should not be politicised.

"In principle, our government and my organisation (BJP) are committed to dignified and secured return of Kashmiri Pandits to their place of origin. The issue should be looked into on humanitarian ground. No one should do politics over it," Minister of State for PMO Jitendra Singh said.

Singh, who hails from the state, was replying to a question on protests in Kashmir Valley against the proposed move to construct composite townships for Kashmiri Pandits.

"So far, the government's action is on right direction. The Home Minister has already said that whatever decision has been taken, it has been taken in good faith," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function.

The Minister said it was not fair to say that Kashmiri Pandits do not want to go back to the Valley.

"They would go back if there is dignity and security in their return. Any person living outside his or her homeland would not feel comfortable," he said.

Singh said return and rehabilitation of Pandits was a very sensitive issue and should be handled with care. "We have to move as per the wishes of Kashmiri Pandits. They have the right to return to their place of origin. The community had to leave in a very unfortunate circumstances," he said.

At a meeting in New Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had asked Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to provide land in the state for composite townships for Kashmiri Pandits.

During the meeting, the Chief Minister assured the Home Minister that the state would acquire and provide land at the earliest for composite townships in the Valley, according to a Home Ministry statement issued after their interaction.

However, Sayeed told the state Assembly that there were no plans for a separate cluster for the Pandits. The Chief Minister also said his government was committed to bring the displaced community back but ruled out setting up "Israeli-type" separate clusters for them.

There were protests in Srinagar against the plans for a separate township for Kashmiri Pandits. The separatists' call for a shutdown in Kashmir against the proposal.

Meanwhile, various organisations representing people of Kashmiri Pandit community held protests in Jammu against the separatists and political parties opposed to the idea of creation of a "composite township" in Kashmir Valley for the displaced people.

 Pandits say hurt by 'politics' over their return

It was 26 years ago when Kashmiri Pandit lawyer Tika Lal Taploo and more than 700 members of the community were killed by militants in the Valley leading to a mass exodus, but their kin say the wounds are bleeding again due to "politics" over the issue of their return and rehabilitation.

"I was 20 years old when militants of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) killed my father in broad daylight... The memories of the incident and the sight of the bullet- ridden body of my father still sends chills down my spine," Ashutosh Taploo, son of Tika Lal, who was the first person from the community to have been killed by militants, said.

Tika Lal, who was also a national executive member of the BJP, was gunned down by militants on September 14, 1989 when he was on his way to his office in a Srinagar court.

Alliance partners PDP-BJP recently spoke in different voices on composite townships for settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley with state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed saying no separate clusters will be built for the displaced community while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh made it clear that there was no change in Centre's view on it.

Ashutosh expressed strong resentment over the "undue politics" being played over the rehabilitation issue and said that the situation was not conducive for their return to the native places.

"A township exclusively for the community is the need of the hour. If the Prime Minister is really serious about applying balm on our wounds, he must act and go ahead with the plan to establish such a township," Ashutosh said.

He claimed that the opposition by separatists to the proposal of setting up of a composite township for Kashmiri Pandits was part of a conspiracy to ensure that they do not return to the Valley.

Some others also felt that going back to their native places would mean rubbing salt to the wounds inflicted upon by the militants.

"I was only ten when militants blew off our house in Ashmuji village of Kulgam district and shot at my father and grandfather from a point-blank range. It would be impossible for me and my family to return to our native place and live amongst the people who had facilitated the killing of my father and grandfather," 35-year-old Sandeep Kaul said.

"The people, who had sworn to protect us, killed my father and grandfather. How can we live with them? A composite township where the people who had to migrate can live under a safe and secure environment is much needed as Kashmir Valley continues to remain in the grip of terrorism," Sandeep, a documentary filmmaker, said.

"Besides the township, providing the much-needed security to the community would help preserve our culture and tradition," he added.

Kashmiri Pandit author Rahul Pandita said that at the time of exodus, the community members had to sell their property at throwaway prices. "Majority of them don't own any property and don't even have enough resources to buy their properties back... A composite township can provide them with a safe and secure environment to live in," he said.

Nearly 62,000 displaced KP families are in Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country. They had migrated out of the Valley after militancy broke out in late 1989.

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