NEW DELHI: Twenty-six years after the exile of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah said the onus is on the Pandits to return.
Speaking exclusively to HT on the eve of the 26th anniversary of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus, Dr. Abdullah said roundtable meetings with community representatives and the state government will be a first step, but the onus is on them to come back. He went on to tersely say: no one will come with a begging bowl and ask the Pandits to return.
Dr. Abdullah also said if the current BJP-led NDA government is serious about the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, then it must take a leaf out of BJP patriarch LK Advanis book and organise meetings between stakeholders to ferret out solutions.
If this thing has to be decided then the government should take initiative and organise a meeting with Pandits and Muslim community leader and see how it can work and what should be done in promoting this to its logical end, as was done when Advani was home minister, there were lots of meetings then, he said.
The former J&K chief minister asserted that militancy has waned in the Valley and the proof of Pandits being safe is the presence of many community members who continue to live in the Kashmir.
He also refuted that governments rehabilitation packages announced in the recent past have found no takers. I dont know who has gone back. But there are a number of Hindus living there and very comfortably, and they are living in villages, he said.
I met them [Pandits] as chief minister, and even after that, I have gone to their places to say, please [return], even the Hurriyat leaders have come to you and told you to come back. They have to make the first move, he said.
Kashmiri Pandits left their home and hearth when the political atmosphere in the valley vitiated after the 1989 state elections which were massively rigged in favour of National Conference sending Farooq Abdullah as the Chief Minister. Abdullah had entered into an accord with the Congress leader, Rajiv Gandhi, before the elections in which the newly founded party Muslim United Front (MUF) reportedly had emerged as the single largest party. The elections were rigged and the disenchanted Kashmir youth crossed over to Pakistan controlled Kashmir where they allegedly received arms training from the Pakistan army. They returned to the Valley to fight for freedom creating a hostile environment for Kashmiri Pandits. Many members of the community were killed by militants.
Experts attribute the exile of Kashmiri Pandits to the rigging of 1989 elections at the behest of Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
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