The return of Kashmiri Pandits has been a topic of debate for long. Be it a common man or a political leader or even a separatist leader, every Kashmiri agrees that the valley of Kashmir belong as much to the Kashmiri Pandits as it does to the Kashmiri Muslims. The PDP-BJP government’s reported move to create separate townships for the displaced Pandits in the Valley has been met with a lot of criticism and opposition from various quarters of the valley. While the opposition parties are terming it as ghettoisation of Kashmir, the separatists are labelling it as a means of creating a communal divide in the society. How do the common people feel about the issue? Do they feel that separate townships for Pandits will only disrupt the peace and harmony in our society or do they feel that they are necessary for the rehabilitation of those Pandits who have sold off all their property? Also, how do our Pandit brethren feel about living in separate townships? Team KO asks. Here are a few answers.
Government is trying to politicise the issue. They only want to divide us on basis of religion. If the government feels that Kashmiri Pandits need separate townships to live in Kashmir, does it want that they should get separate markets and separate schools as well? It is a shame that no steps have been taken by the government for 26 years to facilitate their return. Separate Township is not the way, both communities should forgive each other and start afresh.
— Sandeep Mawa ,Politician
We won't allow these townships of hatred and will fight them tooth and nail for the same. Migrant Kashmiri Pandits have every right to return to their ancestral land. Creating separate townships for Pandits is inspired by the Israeli tactics in Palestine. It is all a part of Hindu-right wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) plan to create a communal divide in Kashmir.
— Yasin Malik ,Chairman JKLF
We are completely against any separate townships. Kashmiri Pandits have as much right on this land as we Muslims have. Government is only trying to add fuel to the fire. They are well aware that no one in Kashmir supports the idea of separate townships.
— Er. Rasheed , MLA Langate
This land is as much theirs as ours. They should return to live in their ancestral homes. Why will they live in separate towns rather than in their native places? Separate townships will only give a bad name to the image of Kashmir. We will welcome them with open arms if they choose to return.
— Maqbool Ahmad, Govt. Employee
I am quite neutral on this issue. I neither support the government nor the separatists. Why did most Pandits sell their ancestral lands and property? I think the sale of property by the Kashmiri Pandits is a matter worth investigating.
— Amit Wanchoo ,CEO, Space Communications
We don’t want disintegration of Kashmiris. We are looking to revive Kashmiri brotherhood and the main aim of getting Kashmiri Pandits back is to bring back the lost glory of our valley. Everybody wants them to return back so we need to work for their rehabilitation.
— Waheed Rehman Parra ,Youth Leader, PDP
In the last 26 years, only political platitudes about the return of Kashmiri Pandits have echoed from the valley. From the Islamist separatists to the common masses in Kashmir, everyone says, ‘we want Pandits to return’ but before finishing the sentence, add a dozen preconditions. The debate about separate townships is completely irrelevant because no matter what the government does, separatists will continue generating a communal hysteria that ensures no one returns. Ideally, only the displaced Kashmiri Pandits should have the final word and authority on how they would like to return. Most Pandits have lost their houses so, I see no problem with composite or separate townships. If that is what will make them feel safe, why should anyone object? As it is, separatists, militants and their foot-soldiers who drove Pandits out, have no moral right to dictate the terms of their return.
— Aarti Tikoo Singh , Sr. Asst. Editor, TOI
Kashmiri Pandits are an integral part of our society and no individual or group is against their return. We are in no way against the return and rehabilitation of the Pandit community in the valley. The Indian Government and its policy makers want to play a very dangerous game by dividing and disrupting the peace and harmony in our community.
— Abid Peer, Reporter
Separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits will only make people question the very idea of India as a multi-ethnic, plural and secular democracy. Kashmiri Pandits have a right to return to their native place. The government should try their best to facilitate their return and allow them to live in peace and harmony with their Muslim brothers.
— Maqbool Shah, Businessman
All our government is trying to do is disturb the peace and harmony of our community. Authorities are just dragging us from one place to another. They are not allowing us to live in peace. I am from Rainwari and want to return to my birthplace. We are homeless as well as jobless. We don’t even have any means of earning our livelihood. We have no identification. The authorities should address our grievances.
— Subash Zutshi , Jobless
We want to return to the valley and stay in our ancestral homes. We want to live together with our Muslim neighbours like we used to. We are scared of living in separate townships as they can be attacked by anyone anytime.
— Nana Ji, Social Worker
We are not against the return of migrant Pandits. They have as much right to live in Kashmir as we do. They are welcome to live with us like they used to. The idea of separate townships is only aimed at creating communal tensions and disrupting peace and harmony. There are many Pandits living with us. If they don’t feel insecure and threatened, why would the others, if they choose to return?
— Shaista Beigh, PhD Scholar
Kashmiri Pandits should come back and live with us. They are an integral part of Kashmir. Transit camps will allow them to live in their homeland as most of them have sold off their ancestral lands and houses and have no place to live.