What Modi May Now Offer
There’s nothing official about it, but word in Srinagar is that the NDA government is planning to resettle displaced Pandits in three different new ‘townships’. So galling is the prospect to the Kashmiris that it has forged a rare consensus between both pro-India and pro-freedom groups. Leading the charge is the Majlis Ittehad-e-Millat, an umbrella organisation of almost all Islamic sects and organisations in Kashmir. “Some 17,000 kanals of land have been identified to settle the Pandits, but the move will be resisted tooth and nail,” says Bashir-ud-din Farooqi, head of the Majlis, who is a government-appointed mufti. Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani believes such settlements can create an Israel-Palestine type of situation in the state and permanently divide the majority and minority communities.
The ‘Israeli angle’, in fact, recurs in conversations across the Valley, even among traders. New Delhi “is working in unison with Mossad to make a Palestine-like ghetto here,” says Yasin Khan, chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, a federation of various trade bodies.
And it’s hardly the Kashmiri Muslims alone who are opposed to the plan. Dr Sameer Koul, a prominent Kashmiri Pandit and national spokesperson of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, discerns vested interests both in the state establishment and in New Delhi who do not want the reunion of the two communities. The governments in New Delhi and Srinagar keep saying on the one hand the situation in J&K has improved perceptibly, but on the other, Koul points out, “there seems to be a conscious effort to vitiate the atmosphere of coexistence and the composite culture of the Valley”.
Bhushan Lal Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit and a National Conference leader, too thinks the proposal for separate enclaves is a fishy one. He sees in them an effort to deflect attention from the main political problems of the state, and give them a religious and communal colour. “We have been living together for centuries,” says Bhat. “We cannot now accept any barriers between Hindus and Muslims.”
There’s another thing. Kashmiri Pandits do not really need government help to return to the Valley. Santosh and Surinder Kachroo have shown the way.
Having left for Mumbai in 1990 in a Maruti van, their first car, where Surinder went on to become the general manager of the Centaur and World Trade Centre, the couple returned to their hometown in March this year, where Santosh had been teaching in a leading school.
The Kachroos have now launched the first branch of a playschool, a little away from their newly-built two-storey house in Sanat Nagar, on Srinagar’s outskirts. Surinder’s brother, who is returning in a few months, has also built a house next door.
Ask them what they think of the speculative talk about the plan to create special and separate enclaves for migrant Pandits, and the couple is vehement in its opposition. “Let our community members give up their comfort zones and return home,” they say. “Like most Pandits, we had sold our house in Srinagar. Now we have built this house out of our savings, not relying on any government rehabilitation package. Why can’t others do so?”
On its part, the Modi government has kept the ‘separate settlement plan’ under wraps. All it has explicitly committed to so far is to create a conducive atmosphere for the Kashmiri migrants to return. For this purpose, it has earmarked Rs 500 crore in its 2014-15 budget.
The UPA too had announced a similar package and rehabilitation scheme in 2008. However, only one family—an old couple who returned to their home in Anantnag district—officially availed of the housing incentive, and there were no takers at all for the promised assistance for self-employment.
Now, in a fresh plan submitted by the state government, the proposed provision for housing has been increased from Rs 7.5 lakh per family to Rs 20 lakh, and assistance to agriculturists and horticulturists from Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakh to Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively.
In addition, there is a new component: acquiring Rs 900 crore worth of land to allocate one kanal (approximately one-eighth of an acre) to every Pandit family that returns. The Omar Abdullah government, however, wants to double the land acquisition amount to Rs 1,800 crore as land prices in the Valley have escalated hugely in recent times.
It has, however, done little to dispel the bad air over the idea of rehabilitating the Pandits in separate, hermetically sealed clusters. Anyway, it’s a job easier said than done, say analysts. As M. Ashraf, a former IAS officer and director general of J&K tourism, puts it, “Constructing housing units in totally guarded pockets resembling concentration camps won’t motivate anyone to return. It will instead create friction between communities.”
Surinder laughs off any suggestion of danger to their lives. “No place is immune to untoward happenings, be it Bombay or Kashmir,” he tells Outlook. “I have seen death from close quarters. During the 1993 Bombay blasts, I was on the second floor of Centaur building at Juhu, and was again fortunate enough to have left the World Trade Centre minutes before the 26/11 attack in 2008.”
“We need to understand that the migration was a sad part of our history and that it was an aberration,” says Santosh. “Kashmiri Muslims also lost two generations in the conflict. But the love and affection hasn’t dissipated. It’s heartening to see not a single Muslim say that migration of Pandits was a blessing.”
It’s a tale that recurs in Kashmiri folklore, the bitterness of the ’90s notwithstanding. Kashmir’s former chief conservator of forests Noor-ul-Hasan recounts one such story. “When I lived in downtown (Srinagar),” he says, “I was intercepted by a group of hooligans near Bohri Kadal on my way to college. Asked whether I was a ‘sher’ (Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah supporter) or a ‘bakra’ (supporter of the Mirwaiz clan), I said ‘bakra’, and got a sound thrashing. I managed to escape but was caught again near the historic Khanqah-e-Mualla shrine. This time I said I was a ‘sher’. Again I was beaten up. I managed to escape yet again but was caught a third time, near the Fateh Kadal bridge. This time I said I was a Kashmiri Pandit. On hearing this, I was given safe passage. Someone from the crowd shouted, ‘Leave him. He is our Pandit ‘boye’ (brother)’. This is how Muslims have been treating the Pandits. Even when Muslims were not safe at the hands of fellow Muslims, nobody would touch a Pandit.” It’s a bit of history worth treasuring—and recreating.
By Showkat A. Motta in Srinagar
Apropos the article Home Isn’t a Ghetto (Aug 11), the word ‘rehabilitation’ is a wrong one to use. ‘Returning’ would be a better word. The Kashmiri Pandits are a wronged people anyway. Let’s not cause them any more harm.
Pinaki S. Ray, Adelaide
The Disturbed Areas Act, a law that restricts Muslims and Hindus from selling property in “sensitive” areas, was introduced in Gujarat in 1991 to avert an exodus or distress sales in neighbourhoods hit by inter-religious unrest. As we have seen recently, if Hindus are in a Muslim-majority area or vice versa, when riots happen, the police are either utterly useless or tend to be utterly biased. That is why people may feel safer living in their own enclaves. But it cannot be good for India’s future. Creating more Juhupuras is not the long-term solution.
Hasn’t the community suffered enough that you should grudge them ghettos as well?
Rajiv Shorey, on e-mail
At last the government is addressing the rehabilitation of displaced Pandits. As far as possible, they should be settled in their original households or wherever land can be allocated. The Pandits should refrain from demanding a separate Union territory as it would be detrimental to Jammu & Kashmir’s past traditions as well as demographic heritage, not to mention the secular fabric of the country.
Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"a Muslim has more to fear from his co-religionist than from anyone else". - Meghnad Desai
"a Muslim has more to fear from his co-religionist than from anyone else". - Meghnad Desai
But that doesn't seem to bother Indian Muslims, does it? They riot and destroy public property on the streets of Mumbai in protest against violence against Rohingyas in Myanmar, they protest on the streets against Israelis killing Muslims in Gaza but come out in support of those who have killed thrice as many Muslims as the Israelis and the Myanmar Buddhists combined - the hallowed ISIS.
[[The protest against Ayan Hirsi's honorary degree was neither violent nor intimidating.]]
But when Taslima Nasreen wanted to attend a press meet in Hyderabad, she was assaulted by no less than an MLA/MP from the MIM, a party that was in alliance with the Congress.
The reason for "peaceful protests" in the US against Ayan Hirsi is entirely understood. Those protesting perhaps didn't want to add to the already disproportionately high number of Muslims in American prisons.
[[Muslim protests against Rushdie are in groups. Muslim protests against ISIS are in newspapers, TV panel discussions and on the internet.]]
So Muslim protest against non-Muslim on Muslim violence is on the streets, while Muslim protest against ISIS-type terrorist violence on Muslims and non-Muslims are "in newspapers, TV panel discussions and on the internet".
Can anyone guess why? Because no one wants to risk their necks by protesting Muslim violence on non-Muslims. It is much safer in TV studios and newspapers/internet.
>> "you do not have a problem with such violent attitudes ..."
You are a congenital liar and a dope.
>>> "check dictate #5 from Anwaar's secret notes"
>> What kind of person would try to show off his smearing and mud-slinging tendencies? You should be ashamed of yourself and your secret notes!
On the contrary, it is you who should be ashamed. Apart from your arguments being circular and strongheaded, not even halfway through this forum the pattern in your arguments have been observed and put forth in "secret notes" with a humiliating accuracy!
>@ Bangalorean - "Hope that helps"
> It sure does. You have hit the nail on its head.
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