When will the Kashmiri Hindus return home

Lalit Shastri

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Kashmiri Pandits in Houston in September 2019

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told a delegation of Kashmiri Hindus in Houston in September 2019 that the wind of change is blowing and now there would be a new Kashmir for everyone.

The Kashmiri Pandit diaspora had responded by extending support to the Modi government and expressed hope that they could return to their homeland. Now it is time for the Modi Government to meet the pledge.

After the abrogation of Article 370 and J&K Reorganisation Act of 2019, the Kashmiri Hindus,  have looked for definite resolution of  three main issues:
1.encroachment of their immovable property;
2.return to their homes; and
3.Prosecution of the perpetrators of the exodus and those who had usurped their property.

The Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint On Distress Sales) Act 1997 was enacted to protect properties of migrants who had left the state after November 1989 due to threat followed by loot, arson, rape and murder by terrorists, who were joined by the radicalised Islamists in driving out the Kashmiri Hindus from their homes to change the demographic character of the population in Kashmir on religious grounds. Irony is that there was zero enforcement of this Act.

After the enactment of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the Centre last year
Amended the Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property Act passed by the J&K Legislature in 1997, and through a notification it has empowered the Competent Authority to take suo moto action to evict unauthorized occupants of property left behind by Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir valley during their forced exodus in 1989-1990.

Now it is for the Centre, with the the Union Territory status of J&K to guarantee the safe return of Kashmiri Hindus, restore their properties and act swiftly against the illegal occupiers and encroachers – something successive State Governments have failed to do.

Before the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir.and abrogation of Article 370, about 1500 displaced Kashmiri Hindu youth were given employment.and settled in special camps under a special employment scheme  between 2008 and 2015. After Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, Burhan Wani was eliminated by the security forces, these camps of the Kashmiri Hindus were targetted and there was heavy stone pelting by the entrenched locals. As a result most of the Kashmiri Hindu Youth fled from the valley.

The Modi led Indian Government should take a cue from Israel and without wasting time resettle the Kashmiri Hindus in specially created secure and well guarded settlements that could range in character from farming communities to frontier villages to urban suburbs and neighborhoods. Now onward, every terrorist act in Kashmir should be be followed up by the Government and it should go into the overdrive mode and settle new migrants – mostly young persons – after giving them compulsory military training. The new settlers in the valley should be brought from different parts of India in hundreds of thousands with the promise of jobs and security. Besides Kashmiri Hindus, ex-servicemen and serving defence personnel posted in Kashmir also should be made residents in large numbers to counter the threat of terrorists from Pakistan. Though it would be wrong to draw a parallel, still one would like to cite the example of Bhopal, where the majority Muslim population was supporting the Nawab, when he was refusing to sign the instrument of accession at the time of Independence. The atmosphere in the city had remained vitiated and was highly polarised on communal grounds for several years but slowly, once the demography of the city got altered after it became the capital of the reorganised State of Madhya Pradesh in 1956, things began to stabilise. Still there were communal pockets to disturb peace and this got amply exposed when Bhopal was set on fire by the radicalised Islamists in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri structure. During President’s Rule that followed, it was the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who took the decision to dismiss the democratically elected MP government for failure to control the riots and a few months later he even went ahead and dismissed the State Governor Kunwar Mehmood Ali Khan since he was most brazenly communalising the Bhopal Police stations after this had been pointed out by me in an exclusive news report. The next Governor of Madhya Pradesh Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, a Kashmiri, had devoted himself towards ensuring Madhya Pradesh turns into a state where there is maximum peace and communal amity and this was achieved with the help of a committed uniformed police force and its most able leadership.

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