What was the need for Omar Abdullah, MLA and former Chief Minister, to move a resolution on the return of Kashmiri migrants back to the Valley? Has anybody stopped Kashmiri migrants from going back to their own Valley? Or is anybody going to dare that?
Before saying ‘yes, yes’ to Omar Abdullah’s resolution, not even a single BJP Legislator questioned the mover of the resolution about his own role in facilitating the return of Kashmiri migrants despite being Chief Minister. Facts remain that his National Conference actually created obstructions in the way of Kashmiri Pandits’ return. The Government of India has been releasing funds for over a decade about rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants back in their homes and hearths. Omar Abdullah’s government was asked to initiate the process. Central funds were earmarked for the purpose. Later, Mufti Sayeed was asked to identify land for creating cluster colonies. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was also exhorted to look for land and set up the colonies. Didn’t National Conference oppose such a move?
On the latest move of the Centre to start the process for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants in the Valley, didn’t Omar Abdullah say that “ghettoisation” would not be acceptable? He knows well that ghettoisation is synonymous to settlement of the Jews in Eastern Europe. Is it fair to compare Kashmiri Pandits with Jews? This has been the refrain of the mainstream leaders and separatists. Above all, while moving the resolution, why didn’t Omar Abdullah admit in the Assembly that his government, or for that matter, his father Dr Farooq Abdullah’s government virtually did nothing in this regard. Why such a lip service after being rendered irrelevant in the Kashmir politics? The truth is that those shedding tears for Kashmiri Pandits now have never been compassionate to their miseries. Such tactics are just befooling Kashmiri Pandits and hoodwinking the public opinion. The BJP, at least, ought to have understood the futility of the resolution, as it was more for public consumption than helping out the migrants in distress.
Omar Abdullah is not an ordinary Kashmiri. He is not just an ordinary mainstream leader either. He has held two important executive positions that of Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, his words are supposed to carry some weight. Frankly speaking, Omar Abdullah has surprised the displaced community, which carries the tag of migrants around their necks like lepers bell, by bringing the resolution in the ongoing Legislative Assembly on their return to their native places in the Valley.
Moving the resolution, Omar Abdullah said, “It’s been 27 years that our own people are languishing in different States of the country, besides out of country. This is the high time for the government to ensure their return to their native places.” The Assembly was quick in giving passage to his resolution without having introspection of the failure of 27 years in tackling the malady.
As leader of the Opposition, Omar Abdullah might have sought return of KPs to their ‘native places’ but as a former Chief Minister he knows where their homes are. He knows that these have either been sold in distress or usurped by the vested interests, forcibly and illegally.
This being so, where would they settle after their return, as the Legislative Assembly seeks them to do? A mechanism had been worked out a year or so back but Omar Abdullah summarily trashed it, saying “ghettoisation” would not be acceptable. The issue of cluster colonies for Kashmiri Pandits tagged with Sainik Colony later became a bone of contention for NC and separatists. The 2016 unrest was the manifestation of protests the so-called mainstreamist NC and separatists lodged over the cluster colonies for KPs. Burhan Wani’s killing just ignited the sentiment.
Hypothetically, if KPs would respond to the Legislative Assembly resolution, where shall they go? Will the encroachers or those who have purchased their properties for peanuts, vacate the possessions? It will be a herculean task for the displaced community to find out their traces under the constructions, which are standing in the shape of Malls, Resorts, Hotels and Palatial Houses, designed on Dubai architecture. Nobody, neither Abdullahs nor Muftis, stopped the distress sale or encroachments of KP properties, notwithstanding the Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint on Distress Sale) Act, 1997 enacted by Dr Farooq Abdullah-led government.
Notwithstanding the rants of Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits or resolutions adopted about their return, the fact remains that there is little love lost for them in Kashmir. Those ruling the State have been professing, day-in and day-out, for the past two decades that ‘situation will be made conducive for safe and dignified return of the Pandits’. This hope has witnessed annihilation of one complete generation. The situation is not going to get conducive, given the electrifying reaction to mere thought of sending Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley in colonies. Whenever such a move is initiated, the mainstream parties and separatists gang up together with alarm bell of Kashmir’s demography is being changed.
The connotation that setting up of composite colonies amount to creation of ‘homeland’ is horrible and intriguing. If there is no danger in placing Kashmiri Pandits together at Jagati in Jammu, what is the problem in creating similar clusters elsewhere in the Valley? They do not speak a word when huge population of Dal is rehabilitated in a single cluster somewhere in the Srinagar periphery. They have no problem either if Kashmiri Muslim population gets settled in Bathindi, Sidhra or Sunjwan. They have absolutely no objective if Gujjars encroach upon forest lands in Jammu and settle separately but Kashmiri Pandits living in a colony is issue for them.
The die-hard critics among secessionists and soft-secessionists are not politically so naïve to believe that lodging of Kashmiri Pandits in clusters is going to change the demography of the Valley. They know Article 370 is not going to be revoked and no outsider will be settling down in Kashmir. Still such a hullaballoo! There is a reason in this madness. They actually don’t want Kashmiri Pandits to return.