‘Everyone In Kashmir Is Insecure And Fearful’

Businessman and leader of All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC), Jagmohan Singh Raina tells Khalid Bashir Gura

Businessman and Sikh leader, Jagmohan Singh Raina

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee said the minority community members would not attend government duties in Kashmir unless the administration ensured their safety. What is the logic? Did not government protect minorities?

JAGMOHAN SINGH RAINA (JSR): Government has no role in protecting minorities in Kashmir or in any society. It is the society, which protects its minorities. In the last thirty years, many people were killed including around 250 Sikhs especially in Chittisinghpura, Mehjoornagar, Poshkreeri and other sporadic incidents. Despite these events, Sikhs did not leave Kashmir because of the majority community’s assurances and support. We do not need security from the state as we are secured in the majority. We live across Kashmir. The majority community did not allow us to leave Kashmir even after Chittisinghpura and stood by us. They asserted that you will leave over our dead bodies. The majority and minority bonds are strong and cannot be broken. Supinder Kaur was segregated and shot down. It hurt us why she was killed?  Everyone condemned it. Even her cremation was attended by the majority community. All were equally bereaved.

KL: So you say you do not need security?

JSR: We are not seeking protection from the government at all. The people in government are themselves covered by layers of security. From DDC members to LG everyone is under tiers of security. We are requesting the government to have a plan and policy for minorities who are deployed as employees at distant places and should be deputed near their homes. This is a request we earlier made to former Chief Ministers also. It is important in the Kashmir context to be near home.

We have a feeling in the last three decades that local Masjid and Mohalla committees and intelligentsia have a realization of the importance of inclusive society and carrying along minorities. All-Party Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) was formed to create bonds of brotherhood between majority and minority and prevent divisive forces from creating a wedge. Following Kour’s killing, we saw few government orders asking Kashmiri Pandits to work from home. It is discriminatory. The government should have considered overall minorities rather than being selective.

KL: Many people do see it as the return of 1990s. Do you agree?

 JSR: We have lived in the 1990s of Kashmir. The situation improved after 2006. But certain measures taken by the government in Delhi are provoking the majority, which in turn is leading to a tense situation. Even after the abrogation of Article 370, the situation has not improved.

Irrespective of the majority or minority community, everyone in Kashmir is insecure and fearful. During the 1990s, we could see boys walking with weapons. But now we do not know whose weapon is used – security or militant? Bindroo is barely 150 feet away from my office and at 250 feet there are two security pickets and despite such security, he is killed. Is it not strange? Similarly, those who killed Satinder Kour came in a car and fled despite so much security. This all is fishy.

Supinder Kour, the principal of a state-run Higher Secondary School who was killed while on duty in October 2021

KL: Do you have any issues with the majority community?

JSR: No. I must appreciate the majority community for they withstood by us in the last 30 years, during testing times. During floods, more than 200 trucks of relief came from Punjab and it was distributed to all. Even during prolonged hartals, mohalla and masjid committees would prioritize minorities.  At the peak of militancy, the annual Amarnath Yatra was facilitated by Muslims. But a section is adamant in creating and portraying a negative image of Kashmir within and outside India. However, everyone plays with the political situation in Kashmir.

KL: What do you think is the role of the majority community in addressing your concerns?

JSR: The onus of keeping communal harmony in Kashmir lies in common people. The politicians from different political parties like NC, PDP, and Congress have never been concerned about the common man. They just play with the situation in Kashmir.  We need to secure the future of Kashmir and it is we who have to think and strengthen bonds.

KL: You always talk about vested interests. Who are they and what are they doing?

JSR: The situation in the neighbourhood especially in Afghanistan is impacting Kashmir. The borders are tense and the external forces and their agencies in Kashmir are putting efforts to deteriorate the situation. A few months ago, a narrative was built around marriage and some people who were linked to divisive forces came to Kashmir to misguide our youth. They incited and led them astray. They were told there are forced conversions of minorities at the gunpoint. But I denied it even at that time. Those who felt for divisive agendas are now regretting it. I have been continuously getting consolations and receiving condemnations of recent killings from all prominent groups including Hurriyat (M), KCCI and others. They have assured that the brotherhood shall prevail.

KL: Security apart, what are you seeking from the government?

JSR: In the 1990s, when the Sikhs left villages due to turmoil, their economy and livelihood were also derailed and impacted. I had voiced concerns and requested the successive governments for packages to uplift the community. We called for implementing National Commission for Minorities recommendations but our meetings with political leaders across different parties came to no fruition. I even met former Home Minister Rajnath Singh and apprised him of the concerns and he said that Article 370 is an impediment. Now even after more than two years of its abrogation who is stopping them?

The reality is they are biased towards us and are neglecting us and are discriminating Sikh community. Before the reading down of Article 370, the Punjabi language was a recognized language in Jammu and Kashmir. After the reading down of the Article, our language was excluded from the list of the official list.

When our delegation met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh we apprised him of concerns and demanded a job package. Soon 700 posts were created for ‘non-migrant minorities.’ Its order came in 2013 but some minority officers in Jammu and Kashmir did not allow its implementation. When the BJPDP coalition came, the clause was changed. It was made exclusive to Pandits but Hindus and Sikhs were excluded. Later we moved to High Court, which also rejected the plea. The centre has been discriminatory towards Sikhs.

Family members and relatives of the slain school principal Friday staged a silent sit-in outside civil secretariat Srinagar on Friday October 8, 2021. KL Image

KL: How do you see the current situation in Kashmir?

JSR: After the abrogation of Article 370, I was among the few who knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court to defend it. Article 370 was already hollowed out by the governments in Kashmir; be it, Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference or Congress. People’s emotions were attached to the Article. But they were jolted when BJP fulfilled the RSS’s agenda of abrogating it. The people of Kashmir may have been less hurt if it would have been done after taking them into consideration. Not only Kashmir but Jammu also got impacted.  The situation is not stable in Kashmir. Till our relations with neighbours are not stabilized Kashmir will be tense.

 KL: So there are no issues of trust between communities?

JSR: We have shared joys and sorrows with the majority. I have reiterated with Hurriyat leadership that Kashmiris have been accused of being communal and driving our Pandits, which is wrong. They (Pandits) left Kashmir out of fear. The Sikh minority choose to stay back is a certificate to prove how secular Kashmiris are and how strong and deep the bonds are between majority and minority.

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