by Saifullah Bashir
SRINAGAR: Meenakshi Lekhi, the new minister of state for external affairs and culture, has landed in a controversy as her statement on Kashmiri Pandits triggered a virtual storm. She said some of the Kashmiri Pandits who are settled, post-migration, did not want to return and the community lacks initiative.
The minister, during an online interaction with Kashmiri Pandits, was asked by a speaker when they would be rehabilitated in Kashmir to “save their culture”.
The response was interesting. “I am really surprised at the question because as a person who is part of this country, you are free to move wherever you want to move. Nobody is stopping people from going back to their homes, and whatever else is needed will be provided,” the minister replied.
This is a tight slap from the core member of @BJP4India @M_Lekhi on the face of Modi Bhakts from Kashmiri Pandit community. Hope now the KP's who called this politician their God hang their heads in shame & apologise to everyone. Thanks a lot for being blunt about your policy. pic.twitter.com/z955jPjHSG
— Mohit Bhan موہت بھان (@buttkout) August 2, 2021
Lekhi did not stop here. She then compared their plight with migrant labourers who had to return to their home states after the Coronavirus pandemic broke out in 2020 but were back at their workplaces when the situation improved.
Crystal Clear Mirror Shown To Kashmiri Pandits Leaders who used to beat their chest supporting & defending @BJP4India on National TV. Thnx @M_Lekhi speaking truth about future vision of #BJP for return & rehabilitation of KPs. #KPsBetrayedByBJP#KPPoliticalTool#ShameOnBJP https://t.co/HhWvjahlaG
— Raveesh Bhan (@raveeshbhan) August 2, 2021
“When Corona happened in Delhi, a lot of migrant workers had come from Bihar, Jharkhand and wherever. They were here and whatever was the treatment meted out to them by the Delhi government, they all went back and they have all come back. Where is the problem? I think people also take a call where they wish to be,” she said. The response suggested the migrant Kashmiri Pandits were not taking the initiative.
Interrupting her, a Pandit participant asked whether it was possible for them to return to the Valley.
“That is why I am surprised at the question because so far as the government is concerned, it continues to be with the people of India whether in Kashmir, Bihar or Delhi or wherever. Some initiative needs to come from people themselves also,” the minister asserted.
Lekhi then said “many Pandits were not interested at all in returning to the Valley.”
“I know there are lots of people who are settled across (the country) and they are settled well. So on one hand, their heart may be pining for their original place of habitation but they are very happy with wherever they are living also. They do not want to be disturbed… People need to take some private initiative as well,” she said.
It is pertinent to mention that resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits is a part of the BJP government’s top agenda.
What @M_Lekhi (Meenakshi Lekhi) said about Kashmiri Pandits is in bad taste. We must introspect. We can't fight war sitting in our 'comfort zones' just by using 'Jewish' terminology of 'exodus/genocide'. We need to come out of comfort zones. Homelands aren't served on a platter.
— Vimal Sumbly (@sumbly) August 4, 2021
The remarks triggered outrage among a section of Pandits, with one asking her to clarify whether the migrant labourers’ issue was comparable to their migration.
“This is a tight slap from the core member of @BJP4India @M_Lekhi on the face of Modi Bhakts from Kashmiri Pandit community. Hope now the KP’s who called this politician their God hang their heads in shame & apologise to everyone. Thanks a lot for being blunt about your policy,” tweeted Mohit Bhan, a Kashmiri Pandit and a spokesman of the People’s Democratic Party.
The Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora (GKPD) has called on the India government to disassociate itself from Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi’s provocative “victim shaming” remarks on Kashmiri Pandit genocide and their return and rehabilitation.
Reacting to the statement of Lekhi Apni Party, general secretary and former MLC, Vijay Bakaya “has expressed shock that the analogy of migrant laborers has been used for the forced migration of KPs in the year 1990.”
The outrage has inundated the issue on the social media and still tweets fly with utmost velocity.