Of cats, pigeons and wolves

Whenever we will talk about Kashmiri Pandits, former Governor Jagmohan Malhotra cannot be ignored. He is a central character in the debate about the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir Valley in 1990. In his book “My Frozen Turbulence”, Jagmohan has called Kashmiri Pandits as frightened pigeons. The same phrase has been used in the State Assembly by Mehbooba Mufti when she said that I cannot keep pigeons before cats, while referring to the return of Kashmiri Pandits back to their respective localities. Although she later blamed media and opposition for misconstruing her comment and said that by cats she was not referring to the Muslim population of Kashmir Valley, but gave a reference to militants.

Mehbooba Mufti was very harsh against militants in the State Assembly and also questioned their relevance in the Kashmir politics. Mehbooba did not stop here; she said that her government has decided to bring back Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley with dignity and respect. “First we have to put them in transit camps. We have to give them breathing space. We can’t tell them to directly go to their villages. Even the mainstream political workers are living with security here. Once they will feel safe they will go back to their villages” – Mehbooba Mufti was quoted in the newspapers from her speech on this subject in the State assembly. The metaphorical expression she used was that she would not throw Kashmiri Pandits who are like pigeons before the cat.

This remark of Mehbooba Mufti drew flak, uniting all the opposition parties to take their pot shots on her comment. Independent MLA Engineer Abdul Rasheed said that while the pigeons were free to fly anywhere, Mehbooba Mufti has let loose wolves on the cats in Kashmir. It was a loaded remark by the sitting MLA made to the Chief Minister of J&K State.

From the entire debate in the State Assembly what seems to emanate is the desperation of a chief minister who wants to rub off the tag of being champion of soft separatism. It bears likeness of the praise showered by Late Mufti Sayeed on RSS and its members at the time when they had taken out a procession in Jammu brandishing weapons.

Mehbooba, as is generally believed, is accused by the national TV of being hand in glove with the separatists in Kashmir, therefore creating a wedge between her and New Delhi. This may be one of the compulsions that he is trying to do away with by hitting at separatists and militants.

Much to the surprise of opposition National Conference, Mehbooba Mufti lashed out at separatists by accusing them of disturbing peace and being villains of development in J&K State. For the first time, Mehbooba directly attacked separatists on the floor of the House accusing them of tarnishing the image of Islam by promoting stone-pelting incidents after the Friday prayers at different places in Kashmir. It was a direct attack on the Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Mehbooba said “no respectful citizen will offer Friday prayers at Grand Mosque of Srinagar because he is frightened by the violence after the prayers at this Mosque”.

Recently separatists have accused Mehbooba for being anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir and busy in implementing the “secret agenda of Nagpur” by conceding on all demands at the cost of her chair, including giving nod to the establishment of Sainik and Kashmiri Pandit colonies in Kashmir Valley.

Mehbooba in her counter-attack said that not only separatists, but the opposition parties also are projecting her as anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir. In a reference put before Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba said that it was National Conference that has connected the destiny of people of Jammu and Kashmir with India and she was only carrying on their mission to strengthen the bond.

Mehbooba further went on to touch the raw nerve of opposition in the State Assembly by saying that they did not respect the mandate of 1987 and it resulted in the militancy. She said that by allying with BJP she has respected the mandate given to them by the people of Jammu and has saved the situation like the one which erupted post-1987. She said that Omar Abdullah should remember that he joined hands with BJP and was their External Affairs Minister. She also reminded National Conference of many past decisions by virtue of which, many internal powers of J&K State were compromised for the sake of power by them.

On the establishment of Transit Camps for the Kashmiri Pandits, she said that it was important for the government to provide them security in these camps before they can mingle in their respective areas with the other sections of population. On the establishment of Sainik Colonies, she said that they have been established in the past and one of the colonies was inaugurated by late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, taking a dig at Omar Abdullah. She said that she has no objection to establishing such colonies for the state subjects. 

Kashmiri Pandit rehabilitation debate needs serious deliberations at all levels as a lot of rumours and misunderstandings can be washed away only by thoughtful debates and discussions. Many Kashmiri Pandit Organizations are tarnishing the image of Kashmiri Muslims in the rest of the country by trying to project them as communal who are baying for their blood. Many newspaper reports go unnoticed as rants of real communal mongers shield the actual happenings in Kashmir. Recently in the Nawa Kadal area of Srinagar Kashmiri Muslims carried out the last rites of two ailing and aging Kashmiri Pandits who were abandoned by their families and left to die. Dozens of such reports appear in the newspapers from the villages where Muslims perform the rites of the abandoned Pandits.

The rabid Pandit organization should explain how they left these aged persons to die in the hands of those who they say are responsible for their migration? Can these organizations explain how more than 6000 families of Kashmiri Pandits stayed back in Kashmir and lived with their Muslim brothers in the past decades without any friction or feud? How they are blaming us for their genocide, while as in the official records there are only 109 FIRs for the deaths of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir in early 90s. Such questions need answers from those rabid organizations that are spewing venom against Kashmiri Muslims to divide the state.

Author can be mailed at aaliyahmed@gmail.com