Sanjay Tickoo is the leader of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, the group of the members of the community that didn’t migrate from Kashmir in 1990. In this interview, Tickoo tells Umar Mukhtar that the Pandits who stayed back have been ignored by the government.
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): You recently held fast-unto-death to press the demands for your community?
SANJAY TICKOO (ST): This was to protest the non-implementation of employment schemes resulting in financial hardships for the non-migrant members of the Pandit community. Our community has some demands that are not fulfilled by the government for the last three years. We were told to wait for some time but nothing happened. I felt that the only way to highlight this step-motherly treatment is to go on a fast-unto-death.
KL: What are the exact demands?
ST: There are many, but jobs for non-migrants is our priority. Also, they have to be registered as migrants. Even the political workers and every migrant is getting Rs 30000 per month. We do not receive any such benefit. Also, now if non-migrants want to migrate, we are asked to get it in writing from the concerned SHO that we are doing it due to some threat. The fact is that we non-migrant pandits have been more vulnerable since the 1990s. The threat is of course from both sides: state and non-state actors.
Moreover, what is happening to our community is bizarre. We are being abused day in and day out by the forces for not leaving the valley.
KL: You always mention the unemployment of non-migrant pandits. You want jobs for them. What is the rate of unemployment in the community?
ST: In 2016, we had 600 non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit youth who were without jobs. They were eligible then. Now many of them have even crossed the age bar. Tell me who is to blame. It is like they want to punish us for something. This is the administrative delay, not our fault so we demand their age bar should be no hindrance in getting the jobs. The Service Selection Board hasn’t even put out advertisements inviting applications from non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits so that they can appear for competency tests.
KL: How sizeable is the non-migrant community?
ST: It was 7000 after the Pandits left the Valley but as of now because of economic instability and failure of government policies, we are only 808 families at 242 locations. This works out a total of 3400 people.
KL: A lot of politics is done in the name of Kashmiri pandit community?
ST: They do it in the name of migrant Pandits. I will not let anyone speak on my behalf. I think the migrants would answer it better why they let someone talk on their behalf. Tell me what they have done about the 77000 families who migrated from this place, nothing.
KL: As a non-migrant pandit who resides here and has seen almost every phase of political instability here, how do you see the just concluded DDC election?
ST: In our community, out of 3400, we would be having around 1800 people who have voting rights. Yes, we participated as other people did. I believe the local government is of utmost importance. But in governors’ rule, I feel the people do not matter much.
Earlier we used to approach the state administration for any issue, but there is now no one to listen to us. The officers are arrogant.
KL: You have also said that the Disaster Management Relief, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction (DMRR&R) Department is deliberately ignoring non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits. Why is that?
ST: They have not implemented the employment schemes despite the 2016 High Court order. They are ignoring us deliberately and God knows better why and at whose behest.
In fact, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and PM’s office have cleared the files but still, nothing happens.
KL: BJP has recently said that there were 50000 temples in Kashmir and they will reclaim them. Is their number correct?
ST: They basically want to create confusion here. I don’t know what is their motive? We only have 3000, not just temples but I would say holy sites that include holy trees, holy caves, holy springs, ashrams, and including centuries-old temples. I don’t know where did the BJP get their number from?
KL: Do you think that the non-migrant community has only been used by the politicians?
ST: I believe our community gets punished for none of our faults. Everyone tells me that the ruling party at the Centre is sympathetic to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. I have a question for those who say these things: what has the ruling party done for us?
KL: Are migrant and non-migrant pandit communities at odds with each other?
ST: No, it is not the case. We just ask for the same rights and the same treatment that they receive. Pandits who left the Valley receive monthly financial aid and non-migrant families get nothing. Why? We are not asking for anything extra. Give non-migrants the same amount that is given to migrant Kashmiri Pandit families.
KL: It is said that the abolition of Article 370 would bring a secure future for everyone and especially for Pandits. Is it really so?
ST: No, there is nothing like that. They told us there will be uninterrupted electricity, industries, and development, these were all lies. They could not even give us 4G. Ok, let us assume all Kashmiris are anti-India including me then what has Jammu done? That is a Hindu dominated area. So, they lied and fooled us.
KL: You believe that people have now been pushed to the wall?
ST: Of course. Why is a PhD scholar choosing a gun over his future? Tomorrow this can be true with our community even. You are seeing the gun everywhere here. There are so many reasons why people choose guns.