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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Development gravy train passes by Kashmiri Pandits

The government may be making tall claims for the ongoing developmental activities in Jammu and Kashmir, especially after the abrogation of Article 370, but there is this minority community of Kashmiri Pandits which finds itself alienated and neglected.

The community of around seven lakh was hounded out of Kashmir by Pakistan-backed terrorists three decades ago and its members continue to be the soft targets even today. The community has suffered several massacres and targeted killings.

Having left their home and hearth and were forced to abandon properties in the valley, a majority of the KP members were forced to live in slum-like places. Even today, thousands live in camps with many unemployed and dependent upon a meagre relief fund being provided by the government.

None of the developmental activities that were undertaken in the erstwhile state before the abrogation of Article 370 had anything specific for the minority community. In fact the community was facing discrimination whether in jobs or admission in professional colleges. But the community had a glimmer of hope with the abrogation of Article 370.

With the state coming under direct control of the Centre, and the BJP in the leading chair which has been very vocal about their plight, the Kashmiri Pandits had high hopes for their rehabilitation and the developmental schemes coming their way too. But, far from any relief, the community challenges have not lessened.

The present dispensation claims the post-abrogation of Article 370 as a new period of economic and developmental growth. In the Supplementary Demand for Grants of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (with Legislature) for 2022-23 and Budget for 2023-24, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Jammu and Kashmir has entered the Amrit Kaal with the aim of a fear-free, corruption-free, drug-free and employment-rich Jammu and Kashmir inspired by Panch Pran, i.e, Goal of developed India, remove any trace of colonial mindset, take pride in our roots, unity and sense of duty among the citizens.”

For the beleaguered Kashmiri Pandits, the ‘Amrit Kaal’ is yet to begin. The promise of return and rehabilitation in the valley seems to have been abandoned by the government.

The only reference that the government makes is: “Foundation stone has been laid for construction of 936 flats as transit accommodation for Kashmiri Pandit employees at Zewan, Srinagar under Prime Ministers Development Programme. 1984 Transit Accommodations for Kashmiri Migrant employees will be completed during 2023-24. The remaining posts of 355 out of 6000 posts under PM-Package for Kashmiri migrants to be filled during 2023-24. The cash assistance and foodgrains for Kashmiri/Jammu migrants to continue under SRE. For the above package, an allocation of about Rs 1,102 crore has been made for the year under Revenue & Capital Expenditure 2023-24, which is Rs 267 crore more than the previous year.”

It is to be noted that all these relief measures were started by the UPA government and beyond these the present BJP-led government has not done anything significant.

There is not a single social welfare scheme that has been given to the Kashmiri Pandits even after the abrogation of Article 370.

After getting uprooted from their homes in the valley, the community suffered majorly economically. The education of the children was the first that took the hit. There is no provision of any scholarship that could help the needy students.

Unemployment is high in the migrant camps and there are no schemes to help the youth. Subsidy or loan facilities are nil for the community youth who want to stand up economically.

At the time of the major exodus in 1990, there were approximately 20,000 KP’s involved in various jobs in the state and Centre governments. The number has dwindled over the years. With no educational schemes like free or subsidized coaching, or scholarships, the youths are unable to compete in the competitive exams.

Those Kashmiri Pandits, who were dependent on agriculture before exodus, have not been compensated for the losses. Even those who are somehow managing to tend to their lands do not get any help from the administration.

The government has been talking about Socio-Economic Development in the UT, but there is no provision for the community in the Agriculture, Horticulture and Sericulture Sector, or even in the animal, sheep husbandry and fisheries sector. The community members living in camps even do not get the benefits of central schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, etc.

In the tourism and culture sectors, the government has massive plans for developing sites. But in this plan, there is hardly any focus on the ancient temples and shrines of the minority community. On the contrary, lands of many temples have been usurped in the last three decades.

After several pleas, the government has decided to finally probe the cases and an SIT has been constituted. The community hopes for a fair trial as the lands have been either illegally sold or encroached by the government departments and powerful individuals.

The community also awaits justice for the terror violence that was perpetrated on the community. A whole community was targeted and the then government failed to secure them in the valley, and allowed the persecution and exodus to happen.

Thirty-three years on, justice continues to elude them. Though the BJP-led government has been taking up their plight in the national and international forums, nothing has been done to investigate the en mass exodus, identify the culprits or sentence the guilty.

FIRs have not been registered in several cases and those where cases are filed, no movement is taking place either on the police side or in the courts.

The government claims that J&K “has witnessed unprecedented levels of development in various sectors since historic changes in August, 2019”. But for the community “the historic changes” are meaningless.

The loss of homeland means loss of culture, language and the sense of rootedness. For Kashmiri Pandits, it is a tragedy and trauma which no successive governments, including the present one is willing to address and repair.

(This article has been published via a syndicated feed)

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  1. Plight of KP is the Appeasement politics of UPA, during 1990 Rajiv was at the helm, again UPA was in power for a decade, NDA after 2014/ 2019 abrogated 370, but pandits are not willing to go back, and protect themselves, govt will support them, let them defend from separatists, if situation demands let them fight civil war by picking up arms like isreal


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