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Return of the pandits: Government the biggest hurdle
By B.L Saraf
Franklin P Adams observed: “The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with conviction, based on experience, that you can fool all of the people all the time.” True of our politicians. A minion and the leader, both, shed tears on the ‘miserable plight of the Pandits living in exile’ and make tall claims to rehabilitate them with dignity in Kashmir. Irrespective of the occasion, they ritualistically invoke Kashmiriat and bemoan “their absence is loss to the composite social fabric of the State.” They vow to facilitate Pandit’s return. Pious words but bereft of meaning! What a travesty - with firm belief they make fool of us; with utmost sincerity we become fools. Be they the ruling coalition political parties or the PDP, same pattern is followed when it comes to the Pandits. They do opposite of what they say. At times, suit to their political conveniences, they look well intentioned. But then, howsoever, lofty an intention may be action speaks for itself. We have every reason to say the actions taken (mostly not taken) by the Union and the State governments with respect to the Pandits betray their disinclination to address the issues which threaten their very existence.

A government which swears by democracy is seeded in public trust; the citizens expect to be honestly told to what extent it will deliver up on the promises made. Experience shows the government is working in contradiction to this principle. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has dithered on the issues vital to the displaced community. It is not a case of bad governance but a carefully crafted policy of prevarication to dodge a political orphan, which a Pandit is made to believe he is. Number of instances can be listed to make the point.

When in opposition, evincing ‘great interest’ in protection of Pandit’s religious places, the National Conference introduced a private member’s bill for protection of Shrines and Temples of Kashmiri Hindus which, however, was withdrawn on the assurance of the then C M Azad that he would bring official bill for the purpose. He didn’t. The present N C government did introduce a bill for the afore mentioned purpose in budget session of 2009. However, there has been no progress in the matter since then. The worst is that Omar Abdullah continues to falter on the matter. Sometimes he promises to issue ordinance to make such a law and subsequently wriggles out on untenable grounds.

Pursuant to Prime Minister’s return and rehabilitation package for the migrants, Pandits were told to frame Cooperative Housing Societies for raising dwelling houses in Kashmir. When the interested persons embarked up on the plan, instead of facilitating the job, they were discouraged at every stage by the State machinery. The government took away lands of the displaced persons, wherever found in the Valley, for no public purpose at all. Instances can be quoted chapter and verse to prove the point. Even lands belonging to the Temples and cremation ghats haven’t been spared. Government persists with land grabbing of the migrant’s religious places. For a brief reference, its preparations are afoot to snatch remaining land belonging to a highly revered KapalMochan Shrine (Nagabal) in Shopian; where as, prior to the present attempt, the government built, without any right thereto, a school on one portion of the same Shrine’s properties. The worst part of the story is that instead of giving promised land to the Shrine, in lieu of the land taken unlawfully earlier, the State is bent up on to divest it of remaining land, as well.

The migrant youth were given jobs in the Valley with a big fanfare. The move was touted as a positive step of the government to herald migrant’s return. The employees are herded in ramshackle tenements, where basic amenities like water and electricity are in short supply. No regard has been shown for the feminine sensitivity. Half a dozen of the female employees have to share one 10 / 10 feet space, to be used for living, sleeping and changing apparel. So is the case with male employees. Their living conditions are so miserable that number of the employees are seriously contemplating to leave the employment and move back to Jammu. Government is aware of the problem since long. Action is still awaited, confirming their worst fears that it is not serious to see Pandits resettled in the Valley.

The attitude of the State has a message for an exile. Unfortunately, it is not a pleasant one. For known reasons, Pandits have no high opinion of the virtues of governance and their faith in the people governing them is on the decline.

(The author is Former PrDistrict & Sessions Judge)
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News Updated at : Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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