Kashmiri Pandits, the indigenous people of Kashmir, who are currently living as refugees in their own country, have some very intimate concerns in the present context. They expect the leadership of the country, government and the administration to understand their concerns and issues and resolve them with due diligence. There is no doubt that the current government at the centre took a number of welfare measures over the last eight years in favour of the general public in Jammu and Kashmir and the Kashmiri Pandits have also been the natural beneficiaries of these measures. But due to the peculiar situation that the exiled community has been living in over the last three decades, they require extra attention and care, undoubtedly, at least on the two issues under discussion here.
The displaced community had no fault of its own for becoming the refugees in its own country. It is surely due to the continuous policy failures of the governments that they continue to live in exile. The abrogation of Article 370, 35A and the other connected issues raised hopes of the exiled community in 2019 and it expected some concrete steps to be taken in their favour thereafter. They came out in support of the move of the government overwhelmingly and also expressed their happiness without any sort of inhibition.
Their relentless support to the government on this account and the happiness that they expressed publicly weren’t taken kindly by a section of the political class and the administration in Jammu and Kashmir. Consequently, some negative measures were taken by a section of the administration to distance the Kashmiri Pandit community from the BJP and the government. These measures were aimed at to create hurdles in the smooth path for the community's men and women and thus cause irritation against the government and the party.
Unfortunately, some bad advices were heeded to by the higher ups in the government and the administration and the gap widened day by day. The PM package employees serving in the government became victims of this witch-hunting and the irritation multiplied with the passage of time. The construction of flats in Kashmir valley for their staying facility was delayed unnecessarily, the time bound promotions were not affected despite lots of resentment expressed, delay and denial in respect of appointments and postings of the PM package employees became the order of the day, cruel introduction of SR 194 in respect of the employees joining after August 2020 thus bringing their salaries down by 40 percent, non-consideration and refusal of inter-district transfer applications on genuine grounds and injudicious allotment of newly constructed flats are a few sources of irritation that were deliberately created by the vested interests.
Moreover, the target killings against the Hindu minorities in the valley by the terrorists for the last three years in particular made the life for these minorities a hell in the valley. They face a very awkward situation in the valley in which they have threat to their life even in their 'secured' work and living places. The package had already tormented their family life and consequently they are forced to go for an agitation with a single demand for relocation to safer places outside the valley of Kashmir.
Security experts including the former DGPs of the state and the former Commander of the northern command of the Indian army have advised the government not to make their relocation an issue of prestige. It is hoped that the government goes by the saner voices at a very critical period in respect of the hapless minority employees in the valley and relocates them to Jammu region till terrorism is finished and normalcy is restored in the valley. The fact of the matter is that the Congress-NC sponsored 'hostage programme' under the banner of PM's employment package for rehabilitation in Kashmir has since failed as an experiment. There is no need to further damage the present and future of the youth of the exiled community and earn their wrath.
Kashmiri Pandits, ever since their exodus, were bereft of any political representation in the Assembly and the Parliament. The exercise of delimitation created a new hope for the exiled community. The community representatives made presentations before the Delimitation Commission very well and in a highly convincing manner. The Delimitation Commission in its official press release mentioned about the recommendations it made to the government of India in respect of the Kashmiri Pandit community, which were confirmed by one of the members of the Commission while talking to this author. It said:
"During the public hearing, the Commission received number of representations from the Kashmiri migrants and the displaced persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The delegations of Kashmiri migrants represented before the Commission that they were persecuted and forced to live in exile as refugees in their own country for the last three decades. It was urged that in order to preserve their political rights, seats may be reserved for them in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Parliament. The Displaced persons from PoJK also requested the Commission to reserve few seats for them in J&K Legislative Assembly. Accordingly, the Delimitation Commission also made following recommendations to the Central Government.
1. Provision of at least two members (one of them must be a female) from the community of Kashmiri Migrants in the Legislative Assembly and such members may be given power at par with the power of nominated members, of the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Puducherry.
2. The Central Government may consider giving the Displaced Persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir some representation in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, by way of nomination of representatives of the Displaced Persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir".
This author has been consistently saying that the process of delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir will test the intent of the State of India in regard to the Kashmiri Pandits. Since the Delimitation Commission and the Election Commission of India are very important two organs of the State of India, therefore, the Delimitation Commission Report coupled with the recommendations made by it to the government of India are an ample proof of the fact that the State of India hasn't failed in respect of Kashmiri Pandits, this time. The recommendations have, undoubtedly, empowered the government of India and the Parliament of India to take big strides eventually in this context to empower the community of Kashmiri Pandits, the children of lesser gods.
Our delegation was candid enough every time regarding our resolve to get the concerns of the Kashmiri Pandits, the persecuted class of citizens who are forced to live as refugees in their own country, registered and recognised. Thanks to the Commission for its deep study, observation, research and solution of the subject.
The Commission has categorically said that 'provisions be made for at least two members from the community of Kashmiri migrants........' for nominations to the Assembly. We would appeal to the government that five members may be nominated including one from the female category and the other from the Kashmiri Sikh community. Likewise, three members from the PoJK displaced people may also be nominated along with.
In the Puducherry case, there are 3 nominated members with voting powers in the Assembly and the provision and procedure both have been upheld by the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court respectively. There are 30 elected MLAs in the House of Puducherry. On the basis of the proportionate equation, the J&K Assembly can have a total of nine to ten nominated members in a house of 90 elected members. The total nominated members can be like this: Women members: 2, Kashmiri Pandits: 4 (one female), PoJK: 3 and Kashmiri Sikhs: 1. Thus with this total of 10 nominated members, the effective strength of the Legislative Assembly of J&K would be 100.
Since the government is required to take the recommendations of the Commission to their logical conclusion, it would be in order to make amendments in the laws of the land in the parliament in this connection. This can happen when the report and recommendations made by the Commission are tabled on the floor of the House. This is possible in the ensuing Monsoon session of the parliament. Therefore, it becomes important to take this battle of struggle to the next level, i.e to the PMO, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary affairs.
(The author is a senior BJP and KP leader, author and columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)