Few months or a year ago there was a hullabaloo over the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley. Government of India and Government of Jammu and Kashmir were planning to resettle Kashmiri Pandits in separate colonies, guarded 24×7 by security agencies. There was widespread resentment across Kashmir to the idea of separate townships for Pandits. Separatists, some mainstream political parties and public at large. The rationale behind the criticism was that the idea of separate colonies represented somewhat like Jewish Settlements of Israel.
Settlement in separate colonies means alienation within ones own country. Instead of rehabilitating state is constructing a group of intruders, to be looked with suspicion by the majority community. Some also argued that these separate colonies maybe a plot to settle defense personnel (who belong to the mainland India) within the state in order to change the demography of the Muslim majority state. Critics saw it as yet another conspiracy by the Indian state. Some argue that the settlement in colonies doesnt mean rehabilitation. Pandits belong to their native villages and towns first, then to Kashmir. So being a Kashmiri means being a resident of specific landscapes they lived before 1990.
Though most of the criticism seems valid and it can be argued that instead of settling Pandits in separate colonies they should be encouraged to relocate to their own native villages and mohallas. This will serve the purpose of rehabilitation and it will also preserve the centuries old syncretic tradition. The idea is good. Pandits and Muslims living as brothers in arms.
I personally believe that this is the best option (rehabilitation at native places) but hard realities need to be looked at. It is not a fiction that Kashmiri Pandits had to leave the valley, whatever the reasons. The truth is that some of the Pandits who stayed back were systematically targeted and killed by unidentified armed gunmen (on many occasions). The MURDERERS in these cases are contested and blame keeps shifting, some believe it was the handiwork of state agencies and some blame militant organizations. Perks of living in a conflict zone, responsibilities lie with no one. The truth is Pandits were killed. Some Pandit families and other minorities still live in valley in peace with their Muslim neighbours is also a fact no one can deny.
I believe that Pandits should be settled in separate colonies but not for whole of their lives. It should be the first step towards the process of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is a long and detailed process, and not a onetime step. Just relocation to ones native place will not help. Trust and networks of trust become important in process of rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits. It is impossible to settle them in their native villages in few days or months after they have been away from these places for quarter of a century. The first step towards rehabilitation is separate colonies. These colonies should not be isolated zones. They should be open to friends and colleagues of the Pandits who want to visit them.
Pandits for sure will be free to mix with the majority community during day. These colonies will remain operational for certain period of time and care must be taken to ensure residents of particular district be settled in their respective districts only. These Pandit families will be encouraged to visit their native villages and lands to develop new networks of trust and familiarity with new generation of villagers living there. The trust factor is absent due to prolonged absence of one group. After few years individual households of Kashmiri Pandits should be encouraged to do so. They should decide whether to settle or not in their native place.
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