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Creation of a legitimate minority space for Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir
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Creation of a legitimate minority space for Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir

By Minority Space we mean that as aborigines Kashmiri Pandits constitute a factorial importance in the socio-cultural construct of Kashmir with an uninterrupted continuity with its rich heritage and more than 5000 years of civilizational past 

Post by DR. ROMESH RAINA on Sunday, January 29, 2023

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Displaced Kashmiri Pandits are facing the biggest challenge in their post exodus life and that is their growing irrelevance to Kashmir. Resultantly there is an increased pace to erase them from its socio-psychological memory. They have been silent sufferers for all these 33 and counting years of their exile period whose travails and tribulations were willfully ignored by all parties across the political spectrum of the country. This official and political apathy has led to their near completion of the ethnic cleansing process, thus purging the valley of perhaps the last remnants of its original inhabitants.  ​This year January 19, 2023 they have entered the 33rd year of their exile foisted on them on the intervening night of January 19/20-1990. Much water has flown down the Jhelum since then with no light visible at the end of the tunnel.

There has to be a way forward as KP’s are not expected to live as exiles in their own country till eternity. Their rehabilitation and restitution therefore calls for an institutional mechanism with constitutional guarantees to prevent any refoulment, should it happen again.  To put it succinctly, creation of a Legitimate Minority Space for KPs in Kashmir assumes significance now than ever before. By Minority Space we mean that as aborigines Kashmiri Pandits constitute a factorial importance in the socio-cultural construct of Kashmir with an uninterrupted continuity with its rich heritage and more than 5000 years of civilizational past.

It is not only an attempt to fill the void but also to contest the growing irrelevance in the socio/ political life of the place. Its main features therefore include:  Recognition of KP’s as a Minority: There is a big dichotomy in Kashmir- The abject KP minority is being linked with the mainstream Hindu majority of the Country thereby depriving them of their legitimate space in Kashmir. Under normal circumstances Kashmiri Pandits would never ask for a minority status, reservation or political crumbs as the community has always believed in moving forward on the basis of merit and individual excellence, which is almost a passion with them. Yet today there is an emergency, the threat of extinction is looming large over the beleaguered community and the nation has to come to its rescue to declare the tyrannized KP’s as a minority in order to reconstruct its social life with dignified identity. 

And as Minorities are entitled a share in Centre’s 15- Point Programme in which funds are earmarked for their welfare and scholarships, it may be pertinent to mention here that Supreme Court has in number of cases stressed for a legislative intervention making it mandatory for states to undertake minority enumeration.  Constitution of Minority Commission: Every democratic set up has a constitutional obligation to have in place a protection mechanism for safeguarding the interests of religious and ethnic minorities. Therefore to set up a Minority Commission which can be approached in the event of a genuine feeling of freedom and liberties guaranteed by the constitution are trampled upon or violated by the anti-minority forces. It is significant to quote here that in February 2014, while tabling an Action Taken Report on ‘Rehabilitation of Jammu and Kashmir Migrants’ in Rajya Sabha, the 31-member Committee comprising MPs from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, had been critical of the Ministry of Home Affairs for not deliberating on the demands of minority status of the Pandits, and matters like providing relief, employment, housing and healthcare facilities to the “migrants” from Kashmir who it said were scattered all over the country after their exodus from Kashmir valley. The panel said it was informed by the Union Home Ministry that the State Government’s stand was that “the migrants belong to Hindu religion and as such do not qualify for grant of minority status.” 

Creation of a Conducive Minority Environment

In the Kashmir context, the rise of conservative religious forces which have jeopardized the socio-political- cultural and economic wellbeing of KPs, it is incumbent upon the civil society and its institutions to take a position on its minorities. While dealing with the situation like this, certain factors need focused approach like: 

  • ​Prevention of civil society spaces from encroachment by extremist Ideology to avert the catastrophic changes in the socio-cultural landscape.
  • Preservation of its Multicultural Character and ethos.
  • Prevention of anti-minority atrocities by contesting such forces and holding them accountable for Violent Attacks.


Political Empowerment

In modern political milieu having a political voice or stakes in political system is an important tool in the hands of minorities for self-preservation. It is incumbent upon the state and central government to politically empower Kashmiri Pandits minority. However, keeping in view their small and dwindling numbers not sufficient to make a significant mark in political arena, that as aborigines provide for this hounded out community reserved constituencies or create a notional constituency on the lines of Sangha in Sikkim for Buddhist Monks. This measure will go a long way in boosting the morale of this beleaguered community tottering on the margins of life. 


Temples and Shrines constitute the living symbols of civilizational presence of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir and need constant funding for repair, maintenance and development, immediate passage of the Temples and Shrines Bill is of utmost importance in order to save these priceless icons of our heritage in the Valley. It is the solemn responsibility of the political administration to enact the Bill into law that would enable the community to exercise control and manage their assets.  Three smart townships’ demands three smart townships at district headquarters of Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramullah.


The time has come when every concerned quarter should wrap up all hypothetical formulae and focus on pragmatic and most justifiable option of satellite cities (three cities) for the entire community of Internally displaced persons with adequate security. These Cities should be self-sufficient in terms of overall infrastructure, economic avenues, adequate land, decent accommodation, educational institutions, medical care, recreation centres and commercial infrastructure etc.        


 (Author is the President, All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS) the apex organisation of KPs)



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