Return of Kashmiri Pandits

Kashmiri Pandit issue has come to once again hog the limelight. After some fresh government talk about the identification of the land for their settlement and the consequent public and the political outcry, the government has now asked the civil society and the separatist groups to give suggestions. Government has denied there was a move to settle Kashmiri Pandits in exclusive colonies. Senior PDP leader and the state government spokesman Naeem Akhtar said the real concern about the return of Kashmiri Pandits was about where to settle them “as they will be returning in entirely different scenario.” Akhtar asked separatists to come up with their idea for ensuring the return of the Pandits. “Let them lead the campaign on getting Pandits back to Kashmir. There is no difference of opinion on desirability and urgency of getting them back,” said Akthar. He, however, assured that the government had no plan to sanction land for the Sainik Colony and that the New Industrial Policy will be reviewed.

In fact, it is the pro-active role of the state to push the creation of the Pandit settlements that has always vitiated the atmosphere. The two communities have not been allowed to work things out through a sustained interaction of their respective civil societies. And such interactions haven’t happened as often as these should have. If encouraged such interactions have a far better chance of succeeding than a fraught state imposed unilateral solution which threatens not only to add to the reigning political problem in the state but also create a permanent divide between the communities.

Certainly, all sections of the society have to be involved. And it will be a drawn process which eventually will succeed.    More so, when the dominant public opinion in Valley and among Pandits too is to find a way to live together again, like we have done through centuries. But beyond the romance and nostalgia of this shared past, the challenge for the two communities is to make it happen again. This calls for formal and informal civil society contacts, and a serious public debate to discuss and deliberate various solutions and work out a consensus. This may appear a tall order but it isn’t.  Politics may have vitiated the climate but at social level the communities spontaneously connect with each other.

We also need a robust media debate over the issue. Such a debate  will involve everybody and throw up ideas. Certainly, the debate will be very contentious in nature, with sometimes extreme opinions being  voiced on both sides but ultimately, there is every hope that a common ground would be found. And that common ground will be the solution.

Will government embark on this path?  Akhtar’s statement shows the intention but  taking the process forward will need a political resolve which seems absent. But, as of now, the discourse of the Kashmiri Pandit return is being set in New Delhi and not in Kashmir. Only when a discourse on the issue evolves from the Valley itself, will there be a credible movement  towards return of Pandits to Valley.


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