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Centre, UT lack will to bring back Kashmiri Pandits: Sanjay Tickoo

File image of a group of Kashmiri Pandits at a sit-in protest against local administration demanding employment promises to be fulfilled in Srinagar, September 2020

File image of a group of Kashmiri Pandits at a sit-in protest against local administration demanding employment promises to be fulfilled in Srinagar, September 2020 | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Kashmiri Pandit leader Sanjay Tickoo, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), on Wednesday said there was lack of will both on the part of the Union Territory (UT) administration as well as the Central government to bring back migrant Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, as the members of the community observed 32nd year of their displacement.

“Neither the Lieutenant Governor’s administration nor the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) or the Prime Minister’s Office show seriousness to bring back migrant Kashmiri Pandits. They lack the will,” Mr. Tickoo, who was shifted to a safe location in Srinagar for around months last year in the face of deterioration of the security situation in the Valley, told The Hindu .

The Centre has ruled Jammu and Kashmir directly for nearly four years, ever since the BJP withdrew its support to the Peoples Democratic Party-BJP alliance in 2018 and further strengthened its grip following the end of constitutional special status on August 5, 2019 . But the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland remains an unachieved goal.

Mr. Tickoo was critical of the Central rule. He warned that the tactics adopted here were likely to delay the return of Pandits. “I don’t see Pandits returning for many years to come. Post-August 5, 2019, J&K has seen no civil society movement and faces a political vacuum too. Unless, all the societal forces, including the political class of the Kashmir Valley and rights groups, come together, the return of Pandits would remain to be a difficult task,” he noted.

Comment | Thirty years on, still no spring for the Pandits

The inter-Kashmir dialogue with the political class and the civil society groups, initiated prior to August 5, 2019, had also come to a halt. “The dialogue was essential to ensure the safe return of Pandits,” he urged.

‘Pandits have shown their resolve’

Referring to the violence of 2020 that saw members of minorities, including Pandits, being targeted by militants, he said Pandits have shown their resolve. “All 808 non-migrant families have stayed put in Kashmir. Besides, around 4,000 migrant employees have returned. Though many may not be in the Valley at present due to the harsh winter spell,” he pointed out.

Mr. Tickoo warned against any demand to have exclusive settlements for Pandits in the Valley. “Smart cities with both Muslims and Hindus living together is a better idea than seeking isolated colonies. I wish to see Habba Kadal and Rainawari-type colonies where both communities lived together, though Pandits were in majority in these areas,” he stated.

If Pandits were given separate colonies, then Hindu Punjabi and other ethnic groups would demand the same in other parts of the country. “It is not practically possible,” he explained.

Sale of land

He asked the government to pass a ban order and stop the sale of land that was retrieved from encroachers after the UT administration started an exclusive portal for it last year. “Those who managed to get their land back should come and start living there now. This will help in return of other Pandits too,” he stressed.

According to government figures, 40,142 Hindu families were among 60,000 families that migrated from the Valley in the 1990s when militancy broke out. It also included 2,684 Muslim and 1,730 Sikh families.

A majority of Pandits left the Valley in January 1990 after the targetted killings between September and December of 1989, including Bharatiya Jan Sangh leader Tika Lal Taploo, local Pandit woman Sheela Tikoo, retired judge Neel Kanth Ganjoo and advocate Prem Nath Bhat in different parts of the Valley.

National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar stated that the “forced displacement of our Kashmiri Pandit brethren in early 1990 is a blot in the history of Kashmir”.

He said, “The return of Kashmiri Pandits is high on our party agenda. We have been and will continue to work towards creating an enabling atmosphere for the community to return and live permanently in their places of birth.”

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 8:23:55 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/centre-ut-lack-will-to-bring-back-kashmiri-pandits-sanjay-tickoo/article38293159.ece