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KP Diaspora's Tele-conference with Dileep Padgaonkar

Milchar March-April 2011

Tele-conference was organised by the US based KP Diaspora with Mr. Dileep Padgaonkar, Chief Interlocutor on Kashmir appointed by Government of India on 5th February 2011, where Mr. Padgaonkar answered direct questions from the community members stationed across globe. The programme was conducted by Surinder Kaul of Houston, USA with the active co-ordination of Jagan Kaul (Oregon), Jeevan Zutshi (California), Rakesh Kaul (New Jersey), Lalit Koul (Massachusets), Mrs. Krishna Bhan (UK), Mrs. Swapna Raina (Maryland), Deepak Ganju (Florida), Bansi Tikku (California), Veer Khar (New Zealand), Kamal Hak and Dr. Agnishekhar (India). Mr. Ashok Bhan, a prominent community persona and a legal eagle facilitated the interaction with Mr. Padgaonkar. Reproduced below, are the Questions asked and Answers given by Mr. Padgaonkar. 

Transcription By Maharaj Krishen Raina, Mumbai  

Question 1: Ms Meenakshi Raina from Paris: There are three dominant political streams flowing in Kashmir. One seeks Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, second one aspires for Independent Kashmir and the third one articulated by mainstream political party’s call for greater autonomy with a very limited role for India in its affairs. Hon’ble lead interlocutor sir, my question is - what dispensation do you envisage for the effective return of the displaced Kashmiri Pundit Diaspora to their ancestral homeland under these political thoughts.

Dileep Padgaonkar: Meenakshi, in the four visits that we have made to Jammu & Kashmir, one thing that is absolutely clear to us is that for the past sixtythree years the big mistake that has been made is to look at the entire problem of Jammu & Kashmir from the prism of the Kashmir valley. The entire issue has been projected as a Muslim-majority state vs a Hindu-majority India. This is patently untrue. The fact of the matter is that the political aspirations of the three regions of the state namely Kashmir, Jammu & Ladakh are not only diverse, they are even divergent. And therefore, the big challenge before us as interlocutors is to try and ensure that each region in Jammu & Kashmir and every community, ethnic, religious or otherwise within every region is able to fulfill its political, social, economic and cultural aspirations. In this context, the people who have been uprooted from their homes, are for us, a priority challenge. And the reason is that they were forced out of their homes because of intimidation, because of fear and above all, because of violence. The Kashmiri Pandits are absolutely the top priority as far as we are concerned. But please also understand that there have been others who have been also uprooted from their homes. These are people who came from West Pakistan because of wars in 47-48, 65 and 71. They have not yet been given even the status of permanent residence. They are few in number but they are human, situation is extremely ??. So to answer your question, our attempt is to find out to what extent Kashmiri Pandits will be able to return to their homeland and live there in harmony, live there in peace, live there above all free from fear and intimidation with their honour and dignity intact. This is a huge challenge. We have at the moment, heard several Kashmiri Pandit organizations during the past four visits and many of them have given us various kinds of proposals. We have heard today the proposal of a separate geographical unit within Kashmir in order to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits are able to return there in security. But there have been several other proposals which have come from KP organizations. We are examining all of them to find out what is durable, what is feasible. The end result however, must be, and I repeat, must be one which fulfills the dreams of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits to live a life of honour and dignity in their own homeland.

Question 2: Mr. Veer Khar from  New Zealand: It has been historically established that Kashmiri Pandits have been subjected to a forcible and inhuman exodus once every hundred years during last seven centuries. The community has always gone back to its roots and wants to do so again. The question is: Have the Hon’ble Interlocutors thought of a dispensation for the displaced community that will provide them the constitutional guarantees for their safety and prevent further displacements?

Dileep Padgaonkar: Our foremost concern, to begin with, is to ensure that the Kashmiri Pandits who are living in miserable conditions in camps in the Jammu region are able to ameliorate their situation. We have been visiting these camps very often, we have held discussions with them, we have found out what their immediate needs and concerns are, and what strikes you above all, is that Kashmiri Pandits have remained true to their vocation, which they say is a) to learn and b) to teach. They would like to make sure that their children have a much brighter future than they have, and children’s future has to be within their own homeland. Beyond the immediate concerns of rehabilitation, which is an ongoing effort, we have made several recommendations in this regard. The central government and the state government have accepted these recommendations and these are being implemented. However, the larger political question remains. And as I said earlier, we have got several options which we are going to examine and these options have come from within the Kashmiri Pandit community. Various community organizations have spoken to us, we have obviously not yet made up our minds because we are just three months into our job but let me assure you that it is of the foremost interest to us to ensure that the deepest desire and dreams of Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes, is something uppermost in our minds. How best to do it, how efficaciously to do it, is something we are looking into. The key really, as far as I am concerned, is that the Kashmiri Pandits must be given a stake in the power equation in Jammu & Kashmir. They must be represented in proportionate numbers in all levels of self governance across the State. The Kashmiri Pandits were once, who were prominent in the administration of the state, their numbers have dwindled next to zero. I think that is completely un-natural, unfair and therefore what we are aiming at, is that the Pandit community must be given a political stake, a high political stake in the governance of Jammu & Kashmir. How to do it, what forms this will take, are issues that we are examining at present, and we hope that by the time we end our mandate, we will come up with an answer. 

Question 3: Dr. Surinder Kaul from USA: Hon’ble sir, let us assume a hypothetical scenario where in Mr. Padgaonkar belongs to Kashmiri Pandit community and is exploited on the pretext of job under Hon’ble Prime Ministers job package and asked to sign a draconian contract and compelled to go back to Kashmir in similar situation from where he was persecuted, humiliated and ejected. Sir, my question is -how will you react and what will be your response and coming on to main question on this subject matter -Have the interlocutors taken cognizance of the terms of such employments and how do they propose to impart basic human dignity to the employment package for the displaced community youth.

Dileep Padgaonkar: I would also have liked to respond to the three earlier speakers, but I leave it to the Moderator to tell me when I can do that. …… Let me directly answer the question that has been raised by Mr. Surinder Kaul. Yes absolutely, the interlocutors have been seized of the question regarding employment opportunities to Kashmiri Pandit youth in ?? . We have asked and received the statistics ?? for most to understand the extent of the problem. You mentioned in particular the package of the Prime Minister and on this count there are three things which I would like to say. The Central government as you know, has agreed that it is going to ?? towards the salary of 3000 youth until they are absorbed against posts in the State government within a specified frame work. There are 9000 other unemployed youth and their employment would also be facilitated to get financial assistance, to come up with self-employment and business ventures. On the question of those Kashmiri Pandits who wish to return to Valley and set up income generating units, the government has already announced a cash assistance for each of them as well as service. When we have been discussing Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu, we have been told that on paper all this seems very fine but in practice, there are huge number of bureaucratic hassles and our endeavour therefore as interlocutors have been to draw the attention of the Central government and the State government in the recommendations we have made to them, to ensure that these hassles are lifted. There is one critical issue however namely that the kind of jobs that have been allocated for migrant youth, should be come back to the Valley. There is obviously reluctance and understandable reluctance on the part of many of them to say that they can not go back until and unless the security environment in Kashmir becomes conducive to such a return. We are therefore trying to see whether as a temporary measure, it is possible for them to be absorbed in jobs in Jammu itself. This is a hugely difficult matter but as interlocutors it is our hope that the Central government and the State government will find ways and means of absorbing these youth. Similarly, we have now received a lot of enquiries from entrepreneurs in the rest of India saying they are prepared to work for partnerships in order to start small businesses in Kashmir and in Jammu as well. These are things that we are pursuing. I would Mr. Kaul request you to be a little patient. We have just been ?? of 3 months. These matters have been lingering for more than twenty years after the forced displacement of the Pandits from the Valley. Give us a little time and we will see whether our efforts lead to some difference in the ?? situation.

Question 4:  Ms. Koshni Compassi from London: National Human Rights Commission of India is on record having stated the circumstances that forced out the entire minority of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland are akin to genocide. This can be a seen as a serious indictment of the executive responsibility of that time. Subsequently, neither the state apparatus in Jammu and Kashmir nor the executive at centre as taken cognizance of NHRC’s findings. We believe this has also contributed to the neglect and apathy shown towards the displaced community for last twenty years. The question, therefore, is:   Will the Hon’ble Interlocutors take a note of this serious miscarriage of justice and include redressel measures in their recommendations to Government of India.

Dileep Padgaonkar: Thank you very much for the question. Let me tell you that right from the very first report that we submitted to the government, we have recommended that the Human Rights Commission of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which has not been functioning effectively, should be made to function effectively. And that its ?? and its proceeding should be along the lines of the National Human Rights Commission. In addition, we have also requested that the Rights to Information Act which has been passed by the State government should be given more teeth. I am happy to inform you that less than a week ago, it was finally decided to appoint a Chief Information Commissioner for the RTI and you are now likely to witness a flood of complaints that will be received regarding all matters of concern to citizens including Kashmiri Pandits. This may relate to allocation of jobs, out of turn housing, medical facilities and so on and so forth. But in terms of justice, in terms of violations of rights, way out is to have a more effective state human rights commission and this is going to be our endeavour. We have spoken about this to the Home Minister and to the Chief Minister and I am glad to inform you that both of them have responded in a most encouraging manner. I think we ought to give them a little bit of time to ensure that along with the RTI and other institutions like the Accountability Commission, the HRC will also begin to function effectively in the weeks and months ahead.

Source: Milchar



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