The valley is seething with anger and distrust again, this time against the proposals of the government which cry of misadventure. An issue which required utmost sensitivity and maturity on the part of the government has taken a volatile turn owing to its ineptness in handling it. At the request of the centre, the PDP government in alliance with BJP has proposed setting up of a separate colony for the Kashmiri Pandit migrants in Kashmir. The mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has and will remain a blot on the history of Kashmir no matter how contentious the who’s and why’s of it remain.
However there are a few things that need to be understood regarding this crisis at hand. First of all, the image that is being manufactured and projected all across the nation through mainstream media that Kashmiri Muslims are against the coming back of their Pandit counterparts, backing these stories with the video footages of the protests taking place in the valley is sheer twisting of truth. The people in the valley, and here I say people because it comprises of the Kashmiri Muslims as well as the Kashmiri Pandits residing in the valley, are not against the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. Rather, people in the valley have expressed their happiness over the return of their Pandit brethren. What the people are against though is the idea of setting up of a ‘separate’ colony for the kashmiri pandits. The backlash and resistance by the people in the valley should therefore be read along these lines.
When has ghettoisation helped any community or society is a question that the government needs to ask itself. History bears testimony as to how ghettoisation breeds hatred and never love, fear and never trust. Today, as the refugee integration is a major concern for Germany, the German municipal authorities have aimed to disperse refugees housing and shelters across neighbourhoods in order to prevent formation of ghettoes. I quote this as an example of the kind of maturity that is expected of a government, to integrate people across race, religion and other identities.
What the government is citing is security concerns for the Pandit community. True, the security of the Pandits should be a priority, but how can separate colony be a solution? Instead of working at building trust between both the communities, the chief minister comes up with statements like, “we can’t leave pigeons for cats”. Hail sensitivity! If the minority community is being invited with statements like these, no matter how much their Muslim brethren make efforts to foster trust in them, it won’t work.
On the part of the people back in the valley, though the popular aspiration being that of welcoming the Kashmiri Pandits, however, more sensitivity needs to be shown as a responsible majority. The lines between protesting against rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in a separate colony and integrated rehabilitation shouldn’t blur. Moreover, the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits should not only be on material lines as is being understood by the present government, it has to be social and psychological too. Mere providing land would not work until and unless they feel integrated as a community.
Here the Kashmiri Muslims have a bigger role to play. As the majority, it is their responsibility to make the minorities feel secure. Any action on the part of the majority community that instils fear in the minds of the minority would be failure of the society as a whole and the traditional harmony that Kashmir has always been known of. Coming back of Kashmiri Pandits would not change the demography of the state as is being raised by certain sections because they have always been a part of it. Right now this whole discourse has been given a communal colour by the right wing political group in consonance with the current government, thereby shifting the entire energy into an issue of Pandit vs. Muslims. Let us not fall into this trap. Let us prove these polarising forces wrong. Let us shift our energy towards building a harmonious Kashmir, the way it used to be.
Let the Kashmiri Pandits depose their confidence in their Muslim counterparts in the valley, and let the Kashmiri Muslims on their part see this as an opportunity to revive their age old culture of harmony and diversity back. And let some sense prevail in the current government which instead of implementing the polarising agendas of right wing group and proposing ghettoisation in the name of rehabilitation should do something substantial and genuine for the Kashmiri migrants and help them rehabilitate in the valley.
By Faiza Nasir
(Faiza Nasir is pursuing masters in political science from University of Hyderabad, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)