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30 years in exile, Kashmiri pandits demand one place for their settlement in Kashmir

Kashmiri Pandits during a demonstration in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.

Kashmiri Pandits during a demonstration in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Despite the social media having been deluged by displaced Kashmiri pandits’ video clippings vowing to “return and die” in the Valley, the community on Sunday appeared to be plagued by self doubts over the prospects of their return.

They demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should settle the community living as “refugees in their own country” for the past 30 years at one place in the Valley.

 

In the backdrop of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s film Shikara on exodus of Kashmiri pandits, to be released in February, several Kashmiri pandits have taken to social media to express their love and willingness to return to their homeland in the Valley to “live and die” there.

“Haji Sahib, we will come back. We will live and die in Kashmir. Our ashes will be immersed in river Vitasta in Kashmir,” is one such video clipping among many similar ones doing the rounds on social media.

Kashmiri pandits consider ‘safety and security’ as the biggest hurdle in their return to their roots in the Valley.

The displaced Kashmiri pandits across the world commemorated January 19 as ‘holocaust day’, when over 70 thousand pandit families numbering over 3.5 lakh were forced out of the Valley due to killings and terror by Pakistan sponsored terrorists in 1990.

The event this year was held against the backdrop of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

“We are hopeful that after the epochal decisions on August 5 and amendments in Citizenship Act, Union government under the visionary leadership of PM Narendra Modi will address the pain and agony suffered by Hindus of Kashmir for last 30 years”, Panun Kashmir convener Agnishakher said.

He said while Panun Kashmir bats for separate territory to be carved out in Kashmir for 7 lakh Kashmiri pandits, it is for government to discuss with the community the ways and means of the basis of return and rehabilitation of exiled community in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement.

Sitting in one-room quartet at Jagti camp on the outskirts of Jammu city, 89-year-old Mohan Lal Dhar wants one place settlement for all Kashmiri pandits in Kashmir.

He is hopeful that the government under PM Modi will rehabilitate them in Kashmir again.

Dhar, who is among the seven lakh-odd Kashmiri Pandits who had to flee Kashmir Valley in the wake of spread of terrorism in 1989-90, says they are living as “refugees in their own country” for three decades but nothing is being done for their return and rehabilitation, because terrorism is still on.

Somawati, who living Muthi camp after their migration from North Kashmir’s Wadipora belt, wants to return to the valley to die there as she urges Modi ji to create condition at one place in valley.

“I want to die there. That is my last wish. Modi ji should settle us at one place in a secured environment. We are hopeful that our dream will be fulfilled”, she added.

'One place-settlement'

Spelling there demand, All State Kashmiri Pandit Conference (ASKPC) General Secretary Dr T K Bhat said tmost Kashmiri pandits feel that “one place-settlement” is only alternative for return and rehabilitation of the minuscule community in Kashmir after ensuring their safety and security.

“Our core concern is safety and security for the community in Kashmir Valley,” Mr. Bhat said.

Stressing on the security aspect, Bhat said, “You can guard our houses, colonies...but it is not possible to provide security to each and every Kashmiri Pandit when they go out in the market. Security is the most important aspect connected to the return of the community.”

The UPA-1 government had offered a rehabilitation package for KPs that proposed Rs 7.5 lakh to every Kashmiri Pandit family willing to return to the Valley.

Several families volunteered to return and filled up the forms. Eight years after that, there has been no progress,” said Poshker Nath, who has been living Roopnagar in Jammu.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had in a written reply in Parliament said that only one family has returned.

Prof B.L.Zutshi, a prominent social activist said, “one place homeland is the political empowerment of the community, and we look forward to this political empowerment.

He said, right since 1947, Kashmir was gradually moving into grip of fanaticism and theo-fascism and 1990 saw the culmination of a well orchestrated ploy to dislodge Kashmir Pandits — the epitome of Indian Nationhood in Kashmir.

Bihari Kak, a popular artist and member of Athwas Cultural Association also feels that the security of the community is prime and first thing for return to the valley.

The Kashmiri pandits say their return to the Kashmir Valley is linked to employment, as the youths willing to return need to have a source of livelihood.

“The proposal to rehabilitate the community in composite townships in the Valley was mooted by the Narendra Modi government, which faced opposition not only from separatists but also the mainstream political parties in Kashmir.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 3:24:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/30-years-in-exile-kashmiri-pandits-demand-one-place-for-their-settlement-in-kashmir/article30602179.ece

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