Kashmiri Pandits say that while the Centre’s decisions pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir are a welcome move, a lot needs to be done to win back the confidence of the community.
“I have mixed feelings. I am happy but at the same time, worried,” said Rahul Dhar (33), who lives in Jammu’s township for the Pandits.
“This is a very brave move. Article 370 had to be removed some day or the other,” he said, adding that he’s worried because he believes things were done in haste. “If you don’t want to talk to separatist leaders, no problem. At least, should have talked to people. There are still many pro-India Kashmiris in the Valley but such moves might turn these groups too hostile.”
Further, he said various schemes by this and the previous governments for Kashmiri Pandits have all gone in vain. Another Kashmiri Pandit, Giriraj Raina (66), seconded this argument and questioned what came of the Centre's rehabilitation programmes for the Pandits.
A step in right the direction
However, his son Manoj Raina (28) is of the view that “
achhe din” have arrived. “ Abhi thode din gahma-gahmi rahegi, phir sab theek ho jaega.” (Tensions will prevail for a few days but the situation will get better.)
“Now, more businesses can be set up, people from other states can settle here and this will prove to be an inclusionary practice. The youth will get jobs, hence they will not join militancy,” he opined.
A sixty-five-year-old Kashmiri Hindu who's settled in Delhi echoed this sentiment. He noted that Article 370 prohibited outsiders from investing in the state, because of which jobs were scarce and the region's economy did not flourish. He asked what good a constitutionally given special status is when it stifles job creation.
He doesn’t have any relative from his or his in-laws’ family in Kashmir anymore, a change brought about by the 1990 exodus. Earlier, everyone lived in Kashmir, he said and elucidated how his brother had to sell off their home for a throwaway price amid the turmoil.
He said he naturally wants to go back and settle in his homeland but he’s sceptical how safe that would be. “Kashmiri Pandit will not jump immediately into coming back until they know they are secure. To be very frank, because—they were killed on streets. Security has to be ensured,” he said, recalling the massacre and that women were mass-raped and bodies mutilated during the unrest in 1990.
“Once people get a feeling that there is no danger to their respect — one doesn’t mind getting killed, but
kehte hain na ki araam se maut aaye. Not in torturous ways,” he added.
He spoke on the condition of anonymity as he’s wary that having his name published might compromise the safety of his brother, who lives in Jammu. He repeatedly emphasised the security aspect, asserting that the government will need to instill confidence in Kashmiri Pandits that the region is safe for them to return. One confidence-building measure he believes is needed is setting up a colony for them and deploying paramilitary force there.
Besides, he said, militancy too needs to be wiped out from the Valley to bring about a sense of safety and get Kashmiri Hindus to return. He said he’s hoping for the best, adding that it’s what happens in the coming years that will establish clarity over whether or not to return to Kashmir.
No reason to cheer
Another Delhi-based Kashmiri Hindu, Sandeep Mawa (40), doesn’t share this optimism. Owner of a textile business in Malviya Nagar, he said there have been times when the situation in the Valley was under control but the government made no attempts for rehabilitation of the Pandits.
His father Shiv Shambhu Mawa, 71, says he is confused over the recent developments. “News
wale bata rahe hain ki samvidhan ki jeet huyi hai. Mai nahi samajh paa raha hun ye samvidhan ki jeet kaise huyi hai,” he said. (Newspersons are saying this is victory of the Constitution. I’m not able to understand how it’s so.)
“I pray to God that it brings prosperity but I am not very sure. History will better judge Modi
ji. If it turns good, he is a hero. If it deteriorates, he would be remembered in another perspective,” added Mawa Senior. Rohin Kumar and Hemant Gairola are members of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.