Dr. Bashir A Dabla
When majority of Kashmiri Pandits [KPs] migrated to different places outside the valley from 1990, many of them stayed put in Kashmir. As per the information tabled in Lok Sabha in July 2002, the number of migrant KP’s was 281230, which comprised 56243 households. On the other hand, as per the estimate of this author, there were 2000- 2500 KP households with 10,000 – 11,500 members living in the Kashmir valley in 2006. About 90 percent of them lived in colonies and villages with Muslim neighbours, while around 10 percent – mainly government employees – lived in security zones. According to Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti, an organization of KPs who stayed in the valley, there were 32000 KPs in 1992 and 19865 in 1998. The organisation puts the number of KPs living in the valley at present at 3440.
The KPs who stayed back in Kashmir suffered like their Muslim neighbours. They had to face psychological, social, economic, cultural, religious and other problems but they didn’t budge from their Kashmir roots. They shared positives and negatives of life with their Muslim brethren. They managed Hindu temples and saved them from taking over by non-Kashmiri priests. They didn’t sell their property and retained their material roots here. In the face of acute cultural and problems in marrying their wards they preferred to stay in the Kashmiri cultural ethos. In this context, who can forget the personalities of Professor C L Veshin and Professor M L Lidoo.
In recent months, negotiations have started about the mass return of KPs to Kashmir. Serious efforts are on to develop a broad framework and to draw a plan in this regard. The government recently announced a rehabilitation package for KPs amounting to over Rs. 1600 crore. Any family willing to return would be accommodated by the government till they construct their own house, for which Rs 7.50 lakh will be provided to each family. Those who wish to establish income generating units would be entitled to cash assistance of Rs 5 lakh (Rs 2.50 lakh as subsidy and rest as loan). Finally, school-going children of KPs will be entitled to a monthly stipend of Rs 750 each.
Since this development is pleasing, it must be appreciated by all friends of Kashmir. But, at this stage, one should remain conscious of some existing facts. First, KPs will land in a place that is radically different in comparison to earlier society, which has undergone irreversible social transformation. Second, a new generation of children among KPs as well as Kashmiri Muslims has emerged whose interaction has to be directed in a proper and desirable perspective. Third, desirable and decent limits must be recognized and established regarding future economic and social competition. Fourth, the role of eminent and credible social notables like those of Bhajan Sopori and Sushil Razdan must be established and legitimized.
However, the KPs who stayed in Kashmir and faced various problems must not be ignored in the proposed rehabilitation package. They should be helped preferably in the following ways
1. They must be equally compensated, especially in establishing business and income generating units. 2.The unemployed youth of the community, who stayed back, must get sufficient number of government jobs among the jobs to be provided to KPs.
3.They must be provided monetary support for purchase of land and construction of houses. and 4. They should be accepted as social and cultural ‘mediators’ between majority community and migrant KPs in the prevailing situation.