Employment Package: The employment package announced earlier for the displaced unemployed persons of the exiled community needs a relook in view of the enormous hardships faced by our youth, who had taken up employment in the Valley, as part of the Prime Minister’s package. Briefly, these concern the draconian pre-conditions laid down by the State Government and the inhuman living conditions provided to them by the government. To illustrate the institutional apathy existing at the State level towards the displaced community, it is to be appreciated that even after so many years of announcement of the scheme by the former PM for the creation of 6,000 jobs only a part of youth have been employed.
4. Grant of Minority Status and Political Empowerment:- The State of Jammu and Kashmir enjoys fairly large degree of legislative autonomy because of the powers it enjoys as a result of the applicability of Art 370 to it. Since political empowerment is the bedrock of any democracy that wants to protect its minorities, KPs must get the minority status and their rightful representation in the State legislatures and other representative institutions. Such provision will not only empower the community politically, but will also go a long way in allaying their genuine fears about their future well-being.
5. Temples and Shrines Bill:- After the exodus of the community from Kashmir in 1989-90, the temples, shrines, pilgrimage centres, Matts, etc., which represents our age-old heritage, handed down through hundreds of years of continuing tradition, have suffered enormously due to desecration, neglect and poor management. What has added to their present sorry state is the wide spread encroachment of their lands and estates by unscrupulous elements, sometimes with official connivance. To protect and preserve these institutions of heritage, the draft Bill (Temples and Shrines Preservation) pending in the Legislative Assembly should be passed at the earliest after taking people of other regions of the State on board. The State Government should come out with the factual position regarding the state of lands and estates attached with the temples and shrines, as these existed in 1990 and as of now.
6. Removing Encroachments:- The State Government must evolve a mechanism to have the illegal occupation and encroachments of lands and properties belonging to displaced Kashmiri Pandits vacated at the earliest.
7. Institution of an Enquiry Commission:- Most people in the country are neither aware of the forced displacement of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1989-90, nor are they aware of the circumstances that led to this displacement. As a matter of fact, the successive governments deliberately gave credence to the disinformation campaign launched by both the separatists as also by the main stream political parties of the state, in order to appease their vote banks. The biggest casualty of this policy was the truth behind the exodus of minorities. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the Central Government constitutes a commission, headed by a serving/retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India, to probe into the circumstances that led to the ethnic cleansing of the entire Kashmiri Hindu religious minority from Kashmir in 1989-1990.
The Commission must have the following terms of reference:-
(a) Fix responsibility for the exodus.
(b) Carry out thorough estimate of the moveable/immoveable assets left behind by fleeing Pandits/others, including the distress sale and its present status.
(c) Give concrete recommendations (having statutory backing) about steps to be taken, both at State level as also at the Union level, to ensure that a microscopic minority like Kashmiri Pandits, does not face similar situation in the Valley in future.
(d) Carry out assessment of damage suffered by religious places, pilgrimage centers, Matts, etc., belonging to Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, as also the encroachment/ illegal sale of land and estate belonging to these institutions, by various people. The commission must also recommend steps to be taken by the State Government to have these illegal occupations/sale vacated/ nullified.
(e) To give iron-clad statutory guarantees to Pandits which will allow them to live as equal citizens of the State with full freedom to practice their religion and also follow the age-old socio-cultural traditions without fear or discrimination. Kashmiri Pandits must also have the full liberty to administer their own religious institutions.
Return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley shall only be possible if concrete steps, as enumerated above, are taken, such as to secure a safe and dignified environment for them. Neither the State nor the Central Government has taken any concrete step in this direction.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper