Pandits for Talks on Kashmir
by O. N. Kaul
Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are over. The new government is in place.
Had the percentage of votes polled been higher in constituencies where
it is very low, it would have implied active voter participation. But that
does not detract from the legality of elections nor does it determine the
life of the government thus formed. The present government in Punjab, which
was formed under similar circumstances, is completing its full term. What,
however, is important is how the new government approaches the tasks ahead.
The problems listed by the National Conference are both political and administrative
in nature. To list the problems one can name some - as rooting out militancy,
reconstruction, rehabilitation, development and making the administration
accountable. The party leaders have reiterated that the problems have to
be tackled under the broad political framework of maximum autonomy to which
both the Congress and the United Front stand committed.
of lhe National Conference leaders over the years do not dispute the factum
of accession. Only its quantum, they say, is under dispute. What little
the government at the Centre has given out, other than its vague generalisations,
like "anything short of azadi" implies that it will hold a dialogue with
the elected representatives of Jammu and Kashmir to determine the nature
of autonomy. It has already held some talks with National Conference leaders
and a group of militants.
that something concrete crystallises out of the discussions unless these
are aimed to be a diversionary tactic like the earlier talks between Mirza
Afzal Beg and Mr. Parthasarthy or between Mirza Beg and Mr. Swaran Singh
which achieved nothing other than giving power to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
On its part, the Centre should not lose sight of the fact that to-be-held
talks are taking place after a long period of turmoil in the State, espccially
in the Valley and Doda district of Jammu province. The turmoil has taken
a heavy toll of life and property. The honour and dignity of the people
have been trampled. Their psyche has hcen hurt - damaged almost beyond
In the Valley,
both the majority and the minority communities have suffered. How far the
former has been responsible for the turmoil need not be gone into here.
Let it suffice to say that wilhout its support (both overt and covert),
militancy could not have gained a foothold in the State. It is a different
thing that they had not bargained for what they got. Perhaps it was a case
of over-shooting the mark. For the minority Kashmiri Pandit community,
which had been always at the receiving end during the last few decades,
eight years of militancy (which actually took off in March 1989) have been
a period of annihilation, chaos and confusion. The community has lost precious
lives, homes, property and most of all, peace of mind. The lot of the community
has been no better than that of the victims of the Partition who had to
start life afresh. The only sin of the Pandits is that they think India
is their own country while others have extra-territorial loyalties. After
being hounded out of their homes, they were left to fend for themselves.
They became refugees in their own country.
of India never had any time or inclination for them. Unfortunately, Kashmiri
Pandits found no takers for their tale of sorrow in the corridors of power.
No one in the Central government had the courtesy to look into their plight,
not to think of mitigating their woes. Political conditions in India, during
these years, seemed to conspire against them. The successive heads of government
in New Delhi did not consider it necessary even to talk to Kashmiri Pandits,
lest it should tarnish their own secular image. Moreover, they had their
own priorities. Mr. V.P. Singh, Mr. Chandra Shekhar and Mr. Deve Gowda
remained very much engrossed in factional fights because of the nature
of the governments they have headed. The least said about Mr. Narasimha Rao, the better. That they have been in a helpless position otherwise too
can be seen from the mere fact that they failed to prevent huge financial
scams. Scamsters were those on whom depended their own survival. One really
feels sorry for Cornrade Inderjit Gupta who is made to justify what he
has abhorred throughout his political career. Others in charge of the Home
Ministry during these years were political non- entities. Much could not
be expected of them.
to the purport of this piece of writing, it is incumbent upon the Government
of India to tackle the problem comprehensively and head-on, instead of
evolving strategies for individual and isolated responses. No problem of
Jammu and Kashmir can be tackled in isolation. It is a matter of satisfaction
that the need for accommodating the aspirations of the people, while working
out a lasting solution of the political problems of the State, has been
recognised. Administrative solutions flow out of political decisions. During
their seven years of exile, Kashmiri Pandits suceeded in inviting attention
of the world community to their miserable plight.
the Government of India has never tried to see Kashmiri Pandits as a distinct
ethnic and cultural group whose problems should have been looked into.
The government always fought shy of taking them seriously, perhaps because
they do not comprise a vote bank.
developments have brought them into focus and cannot be overlooked now.
It is hoped that they will be an important participant in the dialogue
on Jammu and Kashmir as and when it is held. Any attempt to eliminate them
from these talks is to make these meaningless. It would be just like acting
"Hamlet" in the absence of the Prince of Denmark, a symbol of absurdity.
A Kashmiri Pandifs rehabilitation has to take place to his satisfaction
and with full constitutional guarantees. During the last few decades, Kashmiri
Pandits, in spite of their extraordinary merit, had to take recourse to
litigation for petty promotions in service and admissions to educational
institutions. The laws made by executive, and even legislature sometimes,
were always loaded against them. These discrepancies in laws have to be
done away with in the new dispensation. The inalienable right of a Kashmiri
Pandit to eke out an honourable and undisturbed existence has to be protected
through constitutional means. A possible solution to their problems could
be the grant of a homeland with Union Territory status.