Separate colonies will deepen the polarisation

The proposal for creating cluster colonies for migrant ‘Kashmir Pandits has shaken the public opinion. Leading and prestigious newspaper The Hindu in its editorial on April 10, (Friday) wrote “the proposal to create enclaves for them in the Valley is a misconceived element of tokenism that would do great harm and no good….. Without ensuring a peaceful climate for Muslims and Pandits to live together in Kashmir, creating clusters for Pandits would amount to little more than further dividing the State on religious lines. While religious polarisation might work for the parties in government, the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party, it could have disastrous consequences for efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the Kashmir dispute taking into account the concerns of all stakeholders.” 

For this valuable comment from The Hindu, let me say advisory cum warning, the raison d’être was not in some ‘figment of imagination,’ but in the meeting and deliberations on the subject on April 7, (Tuesday) between Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Syed and Home Minister of India, Raj Nath Singh. The official handout issued after this meeting which was quoted by most of the newspapers in New Delhi and Srinagar stated that Home Minister asked Syed to provide land in the state for composite townships for Kashmiri Pandits and the Chief Minister “assured the Union Home Minister that the State Government will acquire and provide land at the earliest.” 

The news had not only caused a flutter in political parties across the political divide but also generated resentment amongst the people. Sensing, the news boomeranging thunderously and having the potential of snowballing into major crisis as that of 2008, Amaranth land row that had led to crumbling of the PDP-Congress coalition government the Chief Minister in cleverly crafted statement did not disown the official handout about raising of new township but subtly endorsed it by stating that the “composite townships” for Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley would be “inclusive, not exclusive.” Semantics’ are of no consequences in such politically volatile decisions. The idea of creating a separate township is in itself as good as planting a landmine at public place that could blast at any time and cause heavy damage. 

On April 9 Thursday, he assured the Assembly that no “Israeli-type colonies” would be created in the Valley for return of the migrant community. No sooner, his assurance to the House were circulated by the wire services, the Home Minister, was heard on television channels stating that there was ‘no going back on separate settlement of KPs. The decision remains the same. We had a good talk with the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on this issue.’ It may be a good cop bad copy strategy. Nevertheless, such strategies rarely work in Kashmir and have more than often dangerously rebounded. 

The idea behind such a township, as articulated from time to time by the BJP and the RSS leadership will be nothing but creating bigger garrisons in the middle of general population. When BJP government had allocated Rs. 500 crore in the 2014-15 Union budget for constructing a separate township and asked Omar Abdullah government for allotting suitable land for it, statements for settling of ex-servicemen alongside the KPs in these towns were issued by a couple of leaders from the tribe. Subramanian Swamy a top BJP leader at a public meeting had suggested ‘settling of 10 lakh ex-servicemen in the Kashmir Valley, who would create the circumstance conducive to the return of the Pandits, and end the strife there to his party’. And also proposed that ‘the ex-servicemen should be given the money and arms, and tasked with retrieving the property of the Pandits.’ He is not the only person who has made plans behind creation of such townships public but many other leaders who hold responsible positions in the Modi government have also made similar statements. 

In the backdrop of statements made by the BJP and the RSS leadership, the idea of separated homeland for Pandits with its identified territory as mooted and supported by the Sangh Parivar, and reiteration the proposition of setting up of the ‘clusters’ stirring the hornets’ nest in the state is a natural corollary. Ostensibly, there is no reason to doubt the intentions of the Chief Minister. That he simply wants the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their watan and live harmoniously with other communities in Kashmir. Equally there seems no reason to disbelieve him that he does not favour creating ghettos for KPs but the question arises can he as a week partner free himself from what a fellow columnist M. Ashraf described as the “bear hug.” Looking at this question in perspective of New Delhi’s ‘pound of flesh’ policy from 1952 towards the Prime Ministers and the Chief Ministers of the State it seems, if not an impossible but a difficult task for the new dispensation not to follow diktats from New Delhi. 

It is a hard historical reality, the ‘pound of flesh policy’ for installing people in power has brought desired political to New Delhi in Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah was installed in power in 1947, for extending a popular sanctity to the “Instrument of accession” and pitting him against Pakistan in the Security Council”. And after performing his role as per the script he was put in dungeon, so holds true about Bakshi, after performing his task of ratifying accession and removing permit system etc, he was pushed to political wilderness, Sadiq after eroding Article 370, had also become a useless cog for New Delhi. Had he not died, he would also have met fate of his predecessor. 

Someone from the ‘electoral politics’ has to say no to New Delhi “pound of flesh policy”. Let the present Chief Minister take the lead by out rightly rejecting the proposal of a separate township telling New Delhi that he wants to adopt his own “Badshah Model” for ensuring dignified return of migrant KPs to their place of birth