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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: Jul 23, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: Jul 23, 2019, 7:00 AM (IST)

Pandits’ rehab affected by trust deficit

Youth feel neglected as government slow on implementing employment package

Sumit Hakhoo

Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 22

As the rehabilitation and resettlement of 3.50 lakh displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley is back in news, raising political tempers in New Delhi and Srinagar, the community is watching anxiously the outcome of yet another media blitz by politicians.

Those living in camps in Jammu while favouring separate settlements for security reasons say the plan should not be imposed on them as the biggest hurdle is trust deficit between Hindus and Muslims post the 1990 violence, which saw selective killing and series of massacres of minorities by terrorist groups, leading to their exodus.

Both Muslims and Hindus had little social contact after 1990. There are several misgivings between both communities about the turbulent history of Kashmir in recent decades.

At Jagti, Muthi, Nagrota and Purkhoo camps which house thousands of Hindu families, there is general opinion that any decision on the resettlement plan will only succeed if talks are held with Pandits and they are involved in formulating a blueprint, keeping in view the failure of the earlier Rs 1,610-crore package announced in 2008 by the then Congress-led UPA government.

Questioning the stance of the Hurriyat Conference which opposes any move to resettle them in separate enclaves and wants them to return to their original places of residence, people say they have never shown sincerity to create bridges with minorities.

At Jagti, one of the largest camp townships, 13 km from Jammu city, constructed between (2008-2014), a majority of the residents have doubts about the government plans for separate townships as an earlier attempt in 2014-15 had failed under pressure from separatists.

“The NC, PDP, Hurriyat and militants say Pandits should go back to their homes, but they have been burnt, looted or ravaged by nature in the past three decades. Politicians need to answer this question. What have they done to save our property and are condition conducive there?” said SL Pandita, a social activist at the Jagti camp.

His apprehensions are not without a doubt. In rural areas, the distress sale of land became a norm after encroachments by members of the majority community. Many sold their properties to invest in educating their children, the only asset they had after losing their homes and properties. Those having daughters sold their landed property to marry off their children.

“The fear of violence is yet to fade away even after three decades. There is still no clarity on how government wants to proceed on the separate township plan. We have not seen any blueprint, only political babbling,” said Pyare Lal from Karihama, Kupwara.

As per Pyare Lal, Karihama-Guchi-Gotango hamlets in Kupwara, a densely Hindu populated area, was burnt down by rioters in September 1990. It took mobs of surrounding villages about two days to burn down 148 houses of minorities.

“We did not leave on our own, but were forced by circumstances after violence unleased by militants. Our houses were looted by anti-social elements,” said Sunil Koul, originally from Tangmarg, Baramulla.

At present, there are 60,452 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country. About 38,119 are registered in Jammu, 19,338 in New Delhi and about 1,995 families are settled in other states. Bringing them back needs series of confidence-building measures (CBMs).

Identity crisis, lost connect

A major issue of any rehabilitation package will be identity crisis faced by the youth who were born and brought up outside the valley. They have almost lost connect with their homeland and have moved on for employment and education outside the state.

The slow pace of the implementation of the Prime Minister’s employment and skill development programme due to non-serious approach of the political leadership is further creating problems for youth.

Although they eagerly follow news reports and discuss politics as their fate is being decided in New Delhi and Srinagar, they represent a lost generation which is living with the stigma of “migrant” tag in their daily life.

“Unemployment is the biggest issue among the youth living in camps. Due to poverty, many youngsters have been forced to quit their studies. Rehab package should consider this first before pushing us towards the Valley,” said Ayush Raina, a college student who lives in the Muthi camp.

Youths face a host of issues like unemployment, drug addiction and breakdown of social structure due to migration.

“During our regular interaction with children, they feel puzzled about the pre-1990 life in Kashmir. Youths have seen life in camps only. There is also a sense of anger about their future,” said Dr Ramesh Razdan, actively working for the preservation of the unique Kashmiri culture.

Voices of camp inhabitants

In 2017, the PDP-BJP government, headed by Mehbooba Mufti, passed a resolution in the state Legislative Assembly calling for creating a conducive atmosphere for our return. No concrete step was, however, taken on the ground. —Kashi Nath Bhat, Tral, Pulwama

We are worried over the future of our children. Those who already returned to the Valley under the PM employment package are made to live in miserable conditions, devoid of any facilities. How can we trust the government? — Brij Mohini Kaul, achabal, anantnag

The representatives of the Kashmiri Pandit community are not consulted. There is a general view is that the Hurriyat Conference opposes our rehabilitation and is responsible for our exodus from the Kashmir valley. — Raj Kumar Tikku, zainapura, Shopian

We trust Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the government needs to talk to Pandits about their aspirations. There are allegations that some bureaucrats are deliberately making efforts to derail the resettlement process. — Ravinder Koul, Baramulla

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