Rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits a move to change IIOJK’s religious, demographic composition

Old, deserted Pandit houses in the Haal area in Kashmir’s Pulwama district(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

ISLAMABAD, Apr 6 (APP): The Narendra Modi-led government is rehabilitating the Kashmiri pandit families back to the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), by offering substantial rewards, to change the religious and demographic composition of the disputed territory.

The pandit families were displaced in the wake of unrest during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is widely believed that this exodus was orchestrated by the Indian government so that it could use it as a pretext to garner domestic support in favor of large scale military operation to quell freedom movement.

Now, the Indian government is channeling all its energies, cunningness and resources to subdue Kashmir but it remains resistant and resilient.

According to the Indian government’s statistics, some 3800 Kashmiri pandit families had already been rehabilitated. Around 44000 Kashmiri pandit families received INR/- 13000 per month and around 6,000 jobs had been created for them; out of which, 3800 have already been given.

Contrary to the lucrative offers being given to the Kashmiri pandits, the displaced Muslim families of the Gujarat riots were given a stipend of only INR/- 500 and that too was discontinued shortly thereafter and their camps were also forcefully shut down.

On July 2, 1984, G. M. Shah, who had support from Indira Gandhi, replaced his brother-in-law Farooq Abdullah and became the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, after Abdullah was dismissed, in what was termed as a political “coup”.

In 1986, Shah decided to construct a mosque within the premises of an ancient Hindu temple inside the New Civil Secretariat area which triggered Hindu-Muslim clashes.

In Vanpoh, Lukbhavan, Anantnag, Salar and Fatehpur, Muslim mobs plundered or destroyed the properties and temples of Hindus.

An investigation of Anantnag riots revealed that members of the Indian government-backed ‘secular parties’ in the state, rather than the Islamists, had played a key role in organizing the violence to gain political mileage through religious sentiments.

According to the official data of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir Relief and Rehabilitation, approximately 60,000 families migrated from the Kashmir valley and settled in Jammu and its adjoining areas. Out of these families, 23000 migrant families settled outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

After they left the valley, many states gave them seat reservations to take up medical or engineering courses which continues to this day. On the other hand, a Kashmiri Muslim family has to send their children outside India and spend nearly Rs. 50 lakhs to secure their admission in foreign countries.

The exodus of Kashmiri pandit families from the Kashmir Valley is a controversial issue.

On one side, there are stories of thousands of pandits who left the valley during the insurgency that erupted in IIOJK in 1989, suggesting that the community suffered enough intimidation to abandon their homes.

On the other hand, the accounts of Kashmiri pandits who stayed behind in Kashmir contradict claims by pandits in the diaspora who say that Kashmiri pandits suffered ‘a genocide’ and were forced ‘into exile’.

Many scholars believe that the government of India orchestrated Hindu-Muslim riots. As it was a time when Kashmir was facing ‘intifada’ and Kashmiri youth took up arms against occupying Indian forces.

The Indian government used Kashmir pandit saga as a pretext to launch a large-scale operation against Kashmiri Muslims. In order to repulse international criticism and garner domestic support, the Indian government used the Kashmir pandit exodus as an excuse.

After revoking Article 370 and 35-A in August 2019 and changing Kashmir’s special status unilaterally, India is now focusing on changing Kashmir’s demography which is an utter violation of International law.